Shanghai's architectural charms: a city walk of unique churches

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Churches have played an important role in the history of Shanghai and are a must-see for tourists seeking to understand the architectural charm of the city.
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When visiting Shanghai, in addition to exploring the famous sightseeing lanes and skyscrapers, don't miss out on the opportunity to experience the unique architectural style of some classic churches that represent the cultural connection between China and the West. These churches have played an important role in the history of Shanghai and are a must-see for tourists seeking to understand the architectural charm of the city.

Xujiahui Catholic Church

One of the most famous and oldest Catholic churches in Shanghai is the Xujiahui Catholic Church, which was founded in 1904 and was officially named St. Ignatius Cathedral.

The Gothic structures has two minarets facing north and south connecting a cross. The interior structure is primarily white and red, with Gothic steeple bell towers. There are 19 altars, and the main altar is 44 meters wide, featuring a statue of several saints in the center.

The windows are made of colorful glass paintings with religious stories that hold ornamental value and interest. Admission to Xujiahui Catholic Church is free. Wedding ceremonies can take place in the church, which offers a solemn, sacred, and romantic atmosphere. Visitors can also enjoy the outdoor seating across from the church, which provides a great view of the church and the hustle and bustle of Shanghai people going about their day.

The nearby Zikawei Library, a cultural landmark in the area is also worth a visit. It boasts about 800 seats for readers, and has two floors underground and three floors above ground. Zikawei refers to Xujiahui with Shanghai dialect elements involved.

Opening hours: 9am-4pm (entry stops at 3:30pm), Tuesday to Saturday.

Address: 158 Puxi Rd

Admission: Free

How to get there: It is recommended to take subway lines 1, 9, or 11 to Xujiahui Station, take exit 3.

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Another historical and culturally significant church in Shanghai is the Holy Trinity Cathedral, founded in 1866. The church is also called the "Red Chapel" due to its characteristic red brick walls inside and outside, which also draws on the characteristics of English churches. The structure of the church is neo-Gothic, with a Latin cross facing west toward Jerusalem.

The interior is dominated by warm colors, and a continuous arch colonnade supports the wooden roof, separating the main and side halls. A picture of stained glass decorates the center and sides of the church. Weddings can also be held here.

Opening hours: 7:30am-10am on Sundays

Address:219 Jiujiang Rd


How to get there: Take subway line 2 or 10 to Nanjing Road East Station, exit 7. From there, walk about five minutes to reach the cathedral. Alternatively, you can take bus No.20 and get off at the terminal. If driving, the Jiujiang Building parking lot is a convenient option for parking.

Tips: When visiting the cathedral, it is important to show respect for the religious beliefs and dress appropriately. Please avoid wearing hats when entering the church and ensure that your clothing covers your entire body. Photography is not allowed inside the church.

Moore Memorial Church

The Moore Memorial Church was designed by famed architect Laszlo Hudec. The church was a complicated task for Hudec involving various requirements: A hall with a capacity of 3,000 people was required for ceremonies, as well as a small ambulatory area and an open-air pavilion for concerts and other events.

The layout was innovative rather than the traditional Latin-Cross form for Western churches. It is essentially composed of five parts, including a nave that could house 1,200 people in the center, and four other sections that dealt with issues related to society, education, management and entertainment on the four corners. The main entrance was on Xizang Road facing the former race course. There were two inner courts inside the church.

The facade showed a Collegiate Gothic style with Romanesque manners in some parts. The external walls were adorned with scarlet bricks in a textured pattern.

The structure of the church has a 5-meter-high neon light installed at the top of the tower, making it a major attraction at night integrated into Shanghai People's Square. It was listed as a cultural relic protection unit in 1993.

Opening hours: Only open on Sundays. From 6:30am-8:30am; 9am-11am;1pm-3pm; and 6pm-8pm (Reservations are needed)

Admission: Free

Address: 316 Xizang Rd

How to get there: Take subway line 1, 2, or 8 to People's Square Station, then take exit 14.

Tips: Dress appropriately, and keep mobile phones on silent. You also need to avoid walking around during the ceremony.

Sieh Yih Chapel

The Sieh Yih Chapel in Shanghai is a historical masterpiece also designed by Hudec in 1929. It is the only Roman Byzantine Catholic chapel in the city. Originally built as a site for religious worship and burial ceremonies, the chapel features a large bell tower in its north, complete with four bronze bells capable of being heard up to 10 miles away.

The interior of the chapel is characterized by simple lines, with columns that rise from the ground and converge at the top in the shape of rose petals. The sunlight that streams through the windows at the top of the chapel adds warmth to its walls.

It is no wonder that this chapel is considered one of the best historical buildings in Shanghai and was designated a cultural relic protection unit in Shanghai in 2014. To visit the Sieh Yih Chapel in Shanghai, visitors must either scan the QR code at the door or make an appointment on the chapel's official WeChat public account.

Opening hours: 8:30am-11:30am, 1:30pm-4:30pm (Tuesday to Saturday); 09:30am-11:30am,1:30pm-4:30pm (Sunday), closed on Mondays.

Address: No.17, Kele Rd

How to get there: Take Line 2 to Beixinjing Station, then take exit No.3. Walk along Songhong Road about 20 minutes to reach the chapel.

Community Church

The Shanghai Community Church is a famous Christian church built in 1925. Its architecture resembles the Gothic churches of Germany, featuring an "L" shaped modern Gothic brick and wood structure with a wooden frame at the tail top and a red brick structure. The church gate faces north, and the pointed arch corridor on both sides has arched window frames.

Although the church is not generally open for admittance, visitors can attend tours on Sundays to explore its breathtaking combination of ancient architecture and verdant green lawn. It's an ideal setting to unwind and drink in the tranquil ambiance of the church.

Opening hours: 7:30am-10am (Sundays)

Address: 53 Hengshan Rd

How to get there: Take Subway Line 1 and get off at Hengshan Road Station, then take Exit No.4.

Tips: It is recommended that visitors arrive early as reservations are not necessary but may be in high demand.

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