Christmastime at the University of the West Indies is probably best exemplified by events at the University Chapel, on the grounds of the Mona Campus in Jamaica. And as one of the most intrinsically historic buildings of the university – though it did not originate there – what more appropriate subject for a seasonal blog post.
The Chapel was brought to the site, stone by stone, from its previous incarnation as an 18th century sugar distillery and storehouse in Trelawny on Jamaica’s north coast. And it is said that some of the stones used in erecting that building may have been scavenged from an even older site in the area. The story of how the distillery building was pulled down, limestone blocks numbered and trucked across the island’s mountain backbone to the south coast, and eventually reconstructed at Mona in the late 1950s, still amazes those who hear it for the first time.
The Chapel is itself full of regional meaning and symbolism, from its coffered ceiling with the ancient seals of those countries that originally contributed, to the font of Barbadian limestone, pews of Honduran mahogany and stairs of Guyanese greenheart, to the stained glass window whose saints are those commonly named in parishes throughout the West Indies.
The Chapel has been central to many events of the UWI and its precursor University College of the West Indies. Traditions associated with the Chapel include the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Nine Carols, and the annual Carol Service at which the University Singers consistently charm a packed house that extends beyond the chapel walls, outside on to the lawns in the balmy December night.
Season’s Greetings to all! The UWI Museum will be closed from December 21, 2012 – January 3, 2013.