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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The "The Light At The End Of The Road" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Walking up a rather steep one-lane street in the center of Marigot, the capital of the French side of the island known as Sint Maarten/St. Martin.  How appropriate that at the pinnacle of the one-lane street would be the St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church which celebrated its 175th anniversary this past year.  The quiet street is lined with white-washed buildings which highlight the pastel yellow concrete building with the large red door at the end of it.  
The St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Marigot, St. Martin.
I was all by myself on the street as I found my way to the top with my trusty camera to take some photographs of this historic church on the French side of St. Martin.  It was in 1648 that the French and Dutch divided the island, but the Roman Catholic Church still found some unity.  The French first lived on the Northern part of the island in the Quartier d'Orleans where they had a small Roman Catholic Church.  
Original Catholic Church in Marigot.
Later the Governor made Marigot the capital, but there were very few citizens in Marigot and a priest and church weren't warranted.  The priest in Quartier d'Orleans was a friend of a free Carib Indian named Louis.  They had an argument which Louis solved by decapitating the priest.  It wasn't until July 3, 1768 that St. Martin was declared a parish.  
The front door of the church.  The lock
holds the key to the many famous and
not so famous who walked through the door.
The French revolution changed much in the islands.  St. Martin had a slave rebellion and the church in d'Orleans, as well as many estate houses, were burned and the revolution bought a change in the relationship between the French state and the Roman Catholic Church.  Father Constant, the priest at the time of the slave rebellion was forced, along with the elite on the island, to build a raft and flee to nearby Anguilla. Then in 1841, an Irish-born priest, Father Wall, settled on Saint Martin and had the Marigot Catholic built.  It was blessed May 15, 1842.  The two transepts were added in 1871 and 1872.  
This small plaque shows a drawing of Saint Martin de Tours.
Recently, the small chapel in the church was renovated by the youth of St. Martin as a hands-on project under the "Compagnons de France", using mid-20th-Century construction techniques.  In 2016 the church celebrated their 175th Anniversary.
A small history of the church is displayed outside the front door.
As the name of the church suggests, it is dedicated to St. Martin of Tours who was a Catholic bishop of Tours in France who was elevated to the status of saint by the Holy See.  My tour was limited to the exterior of the church which I found to be in beautiful condition.  In the rear I found a small garden with a statue of Mother Mary standing in the garden.  I loved the quiet atmosphere and was able to enjoy my visit to the church. After a few quiet moments and a prayer, I departed the splendid church and headed back into center city Marigot.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Perfect photograph for a Caribbean Island Church.
One of the extensions that was added to the church after the original part was built.
One of the transepts added in 1871. 
The garden to the rear of the church.
Another view of the rear of the church.
The Virgin Mary in the garden of the church.

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