Sheshan Marian Basilica

( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2012-05-17

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Sheshan Marian Basilica, known as the "Far East's First Church", was built in the 13th year of Emperor Tongzhi's reign in the Qing Dynasty (1874), rebuilt in 1925, and completed construction and opened in November 1935.

It is a unique building incorporating multiple architectural styles. It is 56 meters long from east to west and 25m wide from south to north. The height from the palace base to the cross pinnacle is 38m. The building area is 1400 square meters. It has 3000 seats and may accommodate 4,000 worshipers.

The whole building contains no steel, beam, nails or wood. It is a typical example of asymmetry: the colorful glass is in different sizes; the building is long in the south short in the north, wide in the east and narrow in the west, square outside and round inside, and made of bricks outside and stones inside.

The building plane is in a Latin cross style, the vault path is in a Roman style, the columns are in a Greek style, the pinnacle is in a Gothic style, the exterior wall and corner floor tiles are in a Chinese ethnic style and the glazed tiles are in a style used by Chinese royal palaces.

The Basilica has no difference between the main entrance and side door. The doors in the four directions are all main entrances. Between the roof and glazed tile layer, there is a 5m thick space, making the building warm in winter and cool in summer. The daylight entering the building is even.

There is no light difference at any location. By relying on the echo wall at the vault, people at any corner can clearly hear the priest's chanting and preaching and worshipers singing hymns without the help of any electroacoustic device. The wall slots between columns and bracket systems have a good effect in damp absorption and cleaning.

In over 70 years since it was put into service, it has never been cleaned, yet it has remained spotless. On May 18, 1947, the bishop of Shanghai held a coronation in Sheshan Marian Basilica, identifying the special honor of Sheshan as a holy land. Chinese and foreign believers donated gold, jewelry and diamonds to be made into two pure gold crowns inlaid with jewelry. On the day of Our Lady of China, 50,000~60,000 believers came to Sheshan for pilgrimage and the coronation.

The Basilica applies optics, mechanics, acoustics, aesthetics and architecture and fully reflects the designer’s ingenuity and concepts. It is a rare special building.

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