St. Mary's Cathedral in Rangoon (Yangon), Burma (Myanmar) is a whimsical Gothic Revival jewel box designed by famous Dutch Catholic architect Joseph Cuypers.
A full description of this delightful church can be found here.
The double-spired, red brick cathedral is the largest in Burma. Built between 1895 and 1899, the Cathedral was dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception on Feb. 22, 1911.
The building is witness to the noble and life-giving faith of the city’s Catholic population. In addition, within its sacred space is a fairly large chapel housing an outstanding collection of saintly relics. One can barely believe that the remains of so many saints can all be located under the same roof. Without a doubt, there are more than this in the many chapels of the Vatican however, this in no way lessens this august collection.
The chapel contains the blessed remains of approximately 100 saints and blesseds.
All of the names of the Church’s “Biggest Hitters” whose relics adorn this chapel would be too long to list herein but include Sts. Don Bosco, Thomas Aquinas, Joseph of Cupertino, Mother Teresa and six of the original 12 Apostles. The relics of any one of these saints would have the place crawling with pilgrims hoping to catch a glimpse at the earthly remains of their favorite saint. This Cathedral, however, is blessed many times over considering the sheer number of hoy relics it preserves.
The majority of the remainder are martyrs―a great number of those are Asian martyrs.
In the Murder on the Orient Express, world-famous Belgian Catholic sleuth, Hercule Poirot, notes that the train’s steward, one of a dozen suspects in an onboard murder, is named after two Catholic saints. The detective notes how fortunate the man is to be under the protection of not just one saint but two.
If such is the case, then it’s understandable how this stately edifice was protected from wreck and ruin on multiple occasions throughout its history. The 1930 Rangoon earthquake should have destroyed the edifice and yet, it didn’t. The 1941–42 Japanese bombings during World War II and the subsequent Allied invasion to liberate Rangoon laid waste to most of the city, and yet, St. Mary’s Cathedral was preserved. The unfortunate Nargis cyclone of May 2, 2008, killed thousands of people but it preserved the church and those who prayed with in seeking shelter from the storm within its walls.
But the most destructive force in the Known Universe has surely been the 20th century advent of atheistic communism which has amassed 152 million dead. Though it isn’t the same global threat as it had been, the horrors of communism still haven’t ended in China, Vietnam, Laos, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea and, indeed, Burma which still hasn’t shaken its self completely free from communist grasp.
Perhaps the saints whose relics are housed in St. Mary’s Cathedral are looking down upon this magnificent church holding it closely in their faithful embrace. They protect both the physical structure of the building and the people whose stalwart faith build the church and its reliquary chapel.
Powerful protection indeed.
We need yet more of it.