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3 churches with centuries of history inside

 Christ Church, Melaka
The colonial-era Christ Church in Melaka, Malaysia. |

With travel increasingly back to normal now is the time to start making plans for where to go. Consider planning a trip around any of the following three historic churches.

Winnipeg

Just across the Red River from downtown Winnipeg is St. Boniface.

Home to one of Canada’s largest Francophone communities outside Quebec, this former city in its own right is today the French Quarter of Manitoba’s capital city.

The historical heart of the community is its namesake, St. Boniface Cathedral-Basilica (Roman Catholic). The dedication is to Boniface, an English missionary known as the apostle to the Germans for his itinerant missionary work before his martyrdom in 754.

The cathedral consists of ruins — the west facade and parts of the north and south walls — after a fire in 1968 destroyed the once-monumental edifice designed by architect Jean-Omer Marchand at the turn of the last century.

The present cathedral, which is actually the sixth church or cathedral erected on the site since 1818, is unremarkable in the sense that it’s typical of post-Vatican II designs. If you didn’t know better, it might be a suburban postwar Protestant church. The only notable feature is a striking resurrected Christ suspended above the altar in the apse on the east end.

St. Louis

Given its history as one of the oldest U.S. cities, St. Louis, Missouri, is full of notable churches from across the spectrum of denominations.

While the Roman Catholic cathedral is by far the most popular, Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) punches above its weight.

Home to a congregation that dates to 1819, the cathedral has exterior architecture typical of Gothic revival from the second half of the 19th century. The tower at the northwest corner, which was erected in the early 20th century, is perhaps the most striking element of the design, if only because the Indiana limestone contrasts with the originally used Illinois sandstone.

The real gem is inside.

Rising 35 feet above the high altar at the east end, the reredos or altar screen was sculpted by noted ecclesiastical artist Harry Hems using limestone imported from Caen, France. Inspired by a similar screen at St. Alban’s Cathedral in England, the masterpiece reredos prominently features Christ on the cross. Other details include panels depicting the annunciation, resurrection and presentation of Christ in the temple.

Melaka

Many visitors to the Malaysian city of Melaka (historically spelled Malacca) may be surprised to discover a church with a history dating back centuries.

Originally Dutch Reformed and Anglican since 1838, Christ Church was built a century after the Dutch acquired this part of present-day Malaysia from Portugal in 1641. This makes it the oldest continuous Protestant church in Malaysia and, likely, anywhere in southeast Asia.

The exterior with its distinctive red color stands out with its numerous Dutch colonial architectural details. Meanwhile, the meeting house-style interior is notable for numerous monuments on the walls to names long-forgotten and even tombstones laid in the floor.

Dennis Lennox writes a travel column for The Christian Post.

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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