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Religions
Dongjiadu Church
2012/12/10

Dongjiadu Church, formerly known as St. Francis Xavier Church, is situated at Dongjiadu by Huangpu River (now 175 Dongjiadu Road).
Recognizing Catholicism as “a religion that inspires virtues”, the Qing Government permitted its activities in ports open for international trades after the Opium War. Prior to that, the old church in downtown was expropriated by Emperor Yongzheng and converted into a Guan Yu Temple. The Catholic Church was later compensated with three pieces of land including Dongjiadu from the then vice mayor of Shanghai (Taotai) in February 1847. At the Vice Bishop of the Jiangnan Diocese Louis de Besi’s command, the new church was built on Dongjiadu on November 21, 1847. The namesake church consecrated Francisco Xavier, a canonized Jesuit missionary who pioneered ventures into the Far East.
The church was designed as a replica of Rome’s Chiesa del Gesu by Spanish missionary Joannes Ferrer, the designer of Xujiahui’s St. Ignatius Cathedral who acquired his enthusiasm for arts through the influence of his father, a court artist and sculptor of Monasterio de El Escorial. As Louis de Besi did not return from the Curia Romana, where he received no support, Bishop Zhao Fangji took over the responsibilities and raised funds in Europe to start building the church. Despite the 30,000 francs from Society of Jesus, a row of windows above and the dome in the centre had to be taken out of the original design and were replaced with a baroque gable one-third of the total height of the façade.
On March 20, 1853, the five-year-long construction was eventually finished. Besides the attendance of French Consul Louis Montigny and officers, two gunboats were sent by French cruiser anchored at Dongjiadu to celebrate the consecration. A salute was fired by French warships when beatification was accorded in the church.
The church soon was used as a temporary hospital and refugee upon the uprising of Small Sword Society, and terminated religious functions during the Cultural Revolution. Despite all the historical changes, this earliest extant Catholic Church in Shanghai remains well preserved.