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St. James Parish Church - Meet Barbados' Soul

Duration: Half Day

St. James Parish Church - Meet Barbados' Soul

The beautiful island of Barbados is blessed with breathtaking scenery and a rich heritage, which makes it a fascinating destination to explore. This tour will take you to one of the most famous attractions on the island – St. James Parish Church. Dating back to the 17th century, this was the first church to be built on the island. Today it lies amongst the four oldest surviving churches in Barbados.

Archaeological discoveries suggest that Barbados may have been inhabited as early as 350 BC by the Arawak Indians who migrated from Venezuela. However, when the British came to the island in 1625, they found it deserted. The first settlement of Holetown was founded on the west coast of the island in 1627, overlooking the calm blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. This beautiful area of coastline is now exclusively known as the "Platinum Coast" and boasts many spectacular white sandy beaches.

Holetown was initially named Jamestown after the Britain’s ruling monarch at that time, King James I, but the town was later renamed Holetown because of a tidal hole near the beach. As the settlement rapidly expanded, it became necessary to erect a place of worship in the area. A wooden Anglican church was constructed in 1628, but was later replaced by a coral stone structure in 1680 after a hurricane destroyed much of the island. It is not known what happened during subsequent hurricanes, but after the hurricane of 1831, St James Parish Church was still standing.

When the walls of the original stone building began to decay, they were partly demolished and replaced by a larger, more substantial structure in 1874. At this time, the roof was raised on new pillars and arches. This historic church was fortunately beautifully restored from 1983 onwards. In the southern porch of the church, a bell bears the inscription: "God bless King William, 1696". This bell is older than the famous American Liberty Bell by over 50 years.

Other notable features in the church include its front and south entrances, which are over 300 years old; a circular tower and spiral staircase; the original 1684 baptismal font; mural tablets and beautiful stained glass windows, one of which depicts The Ascension of Christ into heaven before his disciples. Most of the original settlers and various noteworthy Barbadians were laid to rest in the church and its yard, and the history is documented by dates on the grave stones, vaults and memorial plaques.

Christianity is the dominant religion in Barbados, and around 60 Anglican churches can currently be found on the island. Other interesting churches in St James Parish include St. Silas Chapel, St. Albans Church and St. Francis of Assisi, a Roman Catholic Church. These interesting buildings are also worth exploring during your holiday in Barbados.

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