Four Famous Churches in Beijing

Last updated by david at 2014/10/30

1. The South Church – Xuanwumen Catholic Church

The South Church is located on the famous Xuanwumen Avenue, facing the north. Because there is a huge painting of the Immaculate Conception hanging on the wall behind the pulpit, the church is also called “The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.” Its construction was ledby Johann Adam Schall von Bell, a German missionary, on the former site of a small scripture hall, and became the first formal Catholic church in Beijing. In 1652, when the church first opened, Emperor Shunzhi (1643-1661) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) inscribed a plaque declaring “'built by Imperial Order” and presented it to the church. According to historical documents, Emperor Shunzhi and Emperor Kangxi (1661-1722) were both big fans and visited the church many times. The South Church was later rebuilt in 1904, and today it is of Romanesque architectural style with a semi-circular arch. During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, it was used as a toy processing factory. Finally in 1978, it re-opened to the public and resumed its original function as a regular venue for religious service. Today, it is the seat of Beijing’s dioceses and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.  

Open: 6:00-9:00 (reference only)

2. The East Church – Wangfujing Catholic Church

The Eastern Church is located on Wangfujing Avenue, facing the west. It was originally named after Joseph, the father of Jesus Christ, as “Saint Joseph’s Church.” Built in the 12th year of Emperor Shunzhi’s reign (1643-1661) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), it became the second church in Beijing of Catholic popery. Johann Adam Schall von Bell, a German missionary who also helped with the construction of the South Church, lived here in his old age, and well-known missionaries such as Ferdinand Verbiest and Giuseppe Castiglione‎ also serviced here. Inside, many precious religious paintings drawn by Giuseppe Castiglione are preserved. The church was rebuilt in 1904, and today it is of Romanesque architectural style. During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, it was used as the site for Wangfujing Primary School. After several restorations in recent years, it has become a cultural site with unique features in the Wangfujing area. Often, it is used as a wedding photography studio operated by a Taiwanese photographer as a beautiful background for newlyweds. As well, many young people today come to the square in front of the church to practice skateboarding.

Open: every morning (times may vary)

3. The North Church – Church of the Saviour, Xishiku Catholic Church

The North Church is located in Xishiku inside the west city gate, facing the south. Established in the 14th year of Emperor Guangxu’s reign (1875-1908) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), it was originally called “Savior Church.” It was then erected in the 42nd year of Emperor Kangxi’s reign (1661-1722) of the Qing Dynasty, by a French missionary. When it was completed, Emperor Kangxi inscribed a plaque and presented it to the church. During the reign of Emperor Guangxu, the Empress Dowager Cixi thought that the church was too tall and that it blocked her sight, so she commanded the church to be relocated. After many negotiations, the church was moved to Xishiku and rebuilt as a Gothic building. It then became the head church for Catholic popery in Beijing. In 1901, the North Church was restored and renovated. During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, it was used as a middle school. It is said today that in the near future, the head church for Catholic popery in Beijing will be moved from the South Church to the North Church.   

Open: 5:00-18:00, all day on Christmas (reference only)

4. Dongjiaomin Alley Church

Also named “St. Michael’s Church” or “French Church,” Dongjiaomin Alley Church is the last church built by missionaries in China. Its is located at 13 Dongjiaomin Alley Jia, Dongcheng District, Beijing. Built in 1901, it is a two-story Gothic architecture well-known for the delicate statues of angels above its main gate. The church is one of the youngest in Beijing and located within the area which once belonged to the French Consulate. After the signing of the Xinchou Treaty in 1901, more and more Europeans came to settle or live in the consulate zone in Dongjiaomin Alley. These expatriates asked for a church to be built nearby for religious activities. After negotiations between French Bishop Pierre Marie Alphonse Favier and the French Consul in China, the French Consulate transferred the land possession, and a French Catholic Father took charge of the construction of the Catholic church. Later stages of the construction were passed on to another Frenchman.

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