HISTORY OF HOLY CROSS CATHEDRAL LAGOS
Many years before the arrival of the Catholic Missionaries, the English had become interested in Lagos, partly because of its strategic importance for the naval campaign against the slave trade, and partly because of its possibilities for legitimate trade. So, urged on by traders, humanitarians and Protestants missionaries, John Beechcroft, British Consul for the Bight of Benin and Biafra, had the usurper King Kosoko, a slave trader, deposed, and his brother Akintoye restored to the throne in 1851. In desposing Kosoko the English had used force, making Lagos a defacto British Protectorate. A year later Akintoye signed the treaty abolishing slavery and permitting missionary activity, and in 1853 a full time Consul, Benjamin Campbell, was appointed. On the death of Akintoye, the Consul installed King Dosunmu as King of Lagos. The foreign office issued instruction to have Lagos annexed, as the only effective way to promote trade, and Henry Stanhope Freeman was installed as Governor of the new Colony with Lieutenant Glover as his Administrator.
The Chief interest of the Catholic Missionaries, at this time and for some year after, was in the large community of Portuguese-speaking Catholics who had returned from the new world, chiefly Brazil, and who had been so persistent in requesting the opening of a mission station. There were also strong communities of English speaking Protestants, many of whom had come in from Sierra Leone. But, as at Whydah and Proto Novo, the bulk of the population was indigenous, consisting of the descendants of the migrants from the island of Iddo and the village of Ebute Metta.
On January 5th , 1861 another group of French Missionaries (SMA) left Toulon in France led by Rev. Fr. Francesco Xavier Borghero, Fr. Francisco Fernandez, and Fr. Louis Edde made another heroic attempt to travel to this expensive stretches of African sub-region. Unfortunately Fr. Louis Edde died as soon as they landed in Freetown. The other two priests summoned courage and travelled to benin and settled at Whydah. In this area there was a large number of liberated African slaves from Brazil who had imbibed the catholic faith prior to the return to West Africa around 1845. The zeal of the Brazilian returnees in Lagos and Porto Novo soon led Fr. Borghero to personally extend pastoral services to these areas from Whydah. However prior to the arrival of Father Borghero, the Brazilian were been eld in prayers, Rosary and other devotion by a renowned catechist nicknamed " Padre Anthonio " . He led them from 1838 to 1863.
The next call to Lagos was made by Fr. Borghero himself on his way to Freetown in 1862, when he offered mass in the house of a renowned Catholic. On his return from Freetown he remained in Lagos for a few days. Exploring the town, meeting some of the christains. When these started making a collection to have mission station opened he asked them to desist because, he said, he could not promise to do what they asked. He was not able even to visit them again until September 8, 1863. ( Feast of the birthday of our Blessed Lady ). This was on a Pastoral as the first missionary to the Brazilian catholic community in the Popo Aguda area of LAGOS. He offered then first mass in the compound of Senhor Isidore Ezekiel de Souza at 12, Taiwo Street in Lagos on the 24th September 1863 attended by the Brazilian papais, ( Grandfathers ) Momois ( Grandmothers) Titias, Titieus, Yayas, Yoyos, Senhors and the Senhors.
News of Fr Borghero's arrival on this occasion spread rapidly and delegations came to him, begging him to open a station in lagos. They argued that lagos with a big influx of traders, was becoming the most important point on the coast; that Protestants were growing stronger; and they were forced to send their children to Protestant schools because there was no catholic one. Fr Borghero visited the English Governor Mr Henry Stanhope Freeman, who received him courteously and promised to help. The Governor gave him a plot of land for dwelling on his first visit.
This is where Saint Mary's School now stands. Before he left Lagos sick on 1st October 1863, he succeeded in getting another plot of land free of charge from the same Governor. This is at Itolo-Eglegbata. In December 1863, Fr. Phibet Cahier Courdioux came to lagos , said Masses and baptized many children before returning back to Porto-Novo.
After Fr. Borghero left Lagos for Whydah, a committee of five prominent Brazilians visited Governor Freeman with some money, so as to purchase a large land suitable for a large church and a mission house. The governor said that he thought that land for mission and church should not be bought , but should be granted. He promised to support their appeal to the Colonial Office in Sierra Leone.
Fr Borghero returned by Badagry to Porto Novo; where he was trying at this time to open a station with much obstruction from the French authorities. In January 1864. Fr Hector Noche, intended as Fr. Borghero took him on a tour to porto novo and Lagos where, on Friday 11th April 1864, they were given a document by Governor Freeman granting a site for the mission. Fr. Borghero wnet on to Epe, while Fr. Noche stayed in Lagos, offering Mass in Mr. Paggi's house and baptized seven children.
After Mass, on Sunday 13th April 1864, he arranged with the people for a ceremonial take-over of the mission land. About 500 turned up on the site. He started by baptizing eight, and then blessed the ground. The previous evening Fr Noche had prepared a large cross six meters high. As soon as the blessing was over , twelve strong men took the cross on their shoulders. He followed behind the cross in processional order, all around the site , chanting the "Asperges " and other hymns. " it was covered with a beautiful, flowering shrub. It was an old fetish and a good place to plant a Cross " according to Fr Noche. The ceremony ended with the singing of the " Te deum ". The protestants who came to knee with our Christians compared among themselves our moving ceremonies with their own worship which was the cold and lifeless.
Fr Borghero was keen on having a station in Lagos before he went on leave to Europe , he intended , to send Frs Cahier Courdioux and Falco there. But for Fr Noche's unexpected death at age thirty on th 1st july 1864, upset all his plans. During this period Fr. Baptiste Bebin also died at age pf thirty-four.
( The family of Fr Noche later exhumed hi body and buried in france in 1871). Fr. Borghero also had a big problem with the French authority when he wanted to build a church in porto-novo and finally his own departure to Europe in January 1865, followed by the confusion during the next two years in regard to the direction of the mission, caused a long postponement of the founding of the residential station. He finally resigned form the SMA order and sailed back to Europe.
In 1866, Fr. Augustine Plangue, the Pro-Vicar of the SMA based in Lyons France gave the mission in Porto-Novo another Superior in the person of Fr. Courdioux to replace Fr. Borghera. After his resignation was accepted in 1865, two years later in July 1867 Fr. Courdioux wrote to his Pro-Vicar Fr. Agustine Plangue that they had enough money to start in Lagos and also that got message after message to come, that mean while Protestants were filling theirs schools with children and large number of Catholic's were arriving from Brazil all the time, many of whom joined the Protestants or the Moslems. Fr. Bouche visited Lagos again in August 1868 after his first visit in June 1866, eh was being begged to stay In Lagos. He was impressed and scandalized the progress the Protestants were making the Anglicans Wesleyans and Baptists all with European missionaries and the Catholics were badly exposed by the propaganda of the Protestants.
When he returned to Porto-Novo Fr. Bouche spoke boldly and enthusiastically to the superior Fr. Courdious that they must not wait to start in a big way in lagos that they will get help from people including the Governor Henry Stanhope Freeman. He convinvced Fr. Courdious who then wrote to Fr. Plangue the Vicar to inform him that Fr. Bouche and Fr. Elias would go to Lagos and lodge in the French ( C.F.A.O ) while they were having a bamboo house erected. Also that he would send him the plan of the wooden house to be shipped from France. Fr. Bouche and his Spaniard Br. Elias arrived Lagos on the 11th October 1868 and built a bamboo house at Oke Ite Popo-Aguda where saint Mary is today. Thus, Catholic Mission in what was to become the capital city of Nigeria. This was the beginning of the Lagos Catholic Mission now known as the Holy Cross Catholic Mission Lagos.
It would take some time before the Catholic Missionaries could make real contact with these Yoruba-Speaking people, since the need to take care of the Catholics put the emphasis on learning Portuguese rather than African language. Various estimates of number of Catholics were given. Father Seguer, who visited there during Christmas 1868, put the number at 300 and that they were all the time on the increase by several hundreds each year.
The Brazilian Repartriates were given their Bahia Catholic ceremonies ("The finest in the world") and they are happy. On Christmas Eve they decided to decorate their poor bamboo church, which Fr. Peter Bouche had completed just in time. They brought along their pictures of the saints. They never failed to take with them from Brazil their object of devotion. The walls of the Church were soon covered with pictures, such as that of St. Benedict of Filadelpho, St. Anthony of Padua and St. Francis Xavier. They have brought all these with them from the colonies whence they have come, a certain love of whatever is connected with Catholicism and an irresistible taste for religious ceremonies to which they flock - even those who attended the protestant churches or practiced animism. A novena, a showy ceremony of any sort, attracted them and they all wanted to lend a hand.
It took some time before the missionaries came to understand and sympathized with the kind of religion practiced by the Brazilian Catholics. It was emotional and eternal feeding on ostentations ceremonies, with Church decorations and processions.
Fr. Seguer, having spoken to the large and enthusiastic congregation at midnight Mass ("Missa do gallo"), 25th December 1868. This feast was the occasion for great and prolonged debauchery. They called it "cornet natal", eating Christmas, bibida (beer), porku (pork), carosh (rice) , fejuada (beans) bakayun (salt fish), galea (chicken) etc. they ate and drank well during Christmas. Hence the Lagosians called them kiriyos (feeding to excessively).
They ceased to be individual and called themselves, "The people". Their pictures, statues and other objects of devotion all belong to the people . The returnee Brazilians were doing no more than trying to practice the kind of religion they had known in Brazil. They had attended large churches, richly decorated with statuses, pictures and lights. Big feats were frequent and each was the occasion for an almost hysterical display of emotion. No wonder they tried to make something out of their poor bamboo church in Lagos, and when they had done their best to decorate it they would say "This reminds us of Bahia, but still nothing could ever reproduce the magic of Nosse Senhora de Preia"
They allowed themselves to be baptized in order not to anger their master and to escape punishment. They were then out to do work of the hardest kinds, nobody spoke to them again about religion, they gave up reciting the prayers they had learned and continued in secret to adhere to their animist practices or to say their Moslem prayer.
In 1869 there were two Bamboo churches about two kilometers from each other due to an intervening swamp along Igbosere road. This caused the Catholics from Isale-eko, Olowogbowo and Jankara areas from attending the only church in Lagos at that time.
The first church was at Saint Mary's Popo - Aguda while the second one was at Itolo-Elegbata. Fr. Peter Bouche was the only priest in lagos at that time before the arrival of Fr. Francis Cloud.
In lagos the missionaries pinned their hopes on the young, by February 1869. Fr. Bouche had opened a school with thirty pupils; 16 boys and 14 girls. He said that they were not yet fully organized, since the school was held in bamboo church and under the shade of a tree in the compound. But the number of pupils continued to rise. By august 1869 there were 100 pupils, at the end of the year 169; three years later it rose to 272. The missionaries were pleased to boast that aquite a few of these have transfer red from the protestant missionaries but this did not please the protestants.
In 1869, the new mission at itolo-elegbata was a going concern before the end of that year Fr. Bouche was sent back to france due to ill health. He was exhausted and his nerves frayed. He was replaced by Fr. Francis cloud. Fr. Claude vermorel visited lagos and died a few days later due to heavy work and exposure of the sun. Fr. Francis cloud and his superior Fr. Cordioux were both good missionaries, each with his own contribution to make. They represented two trends of in the missionaries endeavour between which a certain tension begin to exist: Fr.clod emphasized and worked for the salvation of souls while Fr. Courdioux was concerned with the administration of and providing permanent houses, schools and churches to ensure the long term progress of the mission.Fr. francis cloud had once criticized the idea of his superior while they were in port-novo for spending too much money on the infrastructures instead of caring for the sick and the catechumens. At one time, Fr. Cloud asked his superior whether they were to take care of the material edifice and see their spiritual edifice crumble. Also, Fr. Clod requested Fr. Planque to carify the question of the vernacular. He said that he was still studying Portuguese, but he will also need to know English. To spend time learning anago will cause neglect of other things.
There was no real reason why the two men should clash. But in practice, living under the same roof they did clash. At first Fr. Cloud did not want to go to lagos and after some delay, he did go to lagos and conscientious man that he was, he set to work with utmost diligence. A girl's school he saw was urgently needed. He went from door to door to the traders, Catholics and protestants, to collect funds; he approached lt. glover who had succeeded governor freeman. He appealed urgently to Fr. Planque the vicar to let him have the sisters from porto- novo who havenothing to do to come to lagos and leave in the house bought from one doctor simpson while they will move to the bamboo hut. Governor glover had allocated a subsidy of 110 for the Catholic school in lagos. The first Catholics institution in lago was st. francis xaver Catholic school (now holy cross primary school) founded in 1871. It was named after that pioneer missionary Fr. Francis xaver borghero. The second institution is st. mary's convent founded in 1873 for girls and women under OLA sisters. Fr. Francis cloud established the confraternity of the holy rosary which is the oldest society in lagos up till today. The second society is the apostleship of prayers founded by Fr. John Selwyn in 1922 while the guild of st. Anthony was founded by the Brazilians in 1924 viva st Anthony! Viva! Legion of mary was founded by late bro frank duff in 1930.
In 1870, his holiness pope pius ix (cardinal glovanni mastai ferrti 1846-1870), the longest successor of saint peter (32yrs, 7months and 17 days) created a new ecclesiastical province known as the vicariate apostolic of bight of benin. (vicaritus apostolicus benini). The vicariate was to take care of the areas in the volta region in the west to the east of the niger river. These areas were Ghana (British), togo(German), benin (French) and Nigeria (British). Lagos was an outstation of porto-novo and next to whydah served as the headquarters of the vicariate apostolic bight of benin. In Nigeria, the areas mostly concerned were lagos, ogun, ondo, oyo, benin, warri, and kwara. These areas had some traces of muhammedanism, CMS, Methodist and the Baptist. All these posted as initial problems.
When lagos was now bubbling with missionary activities, more priests arrived. Some of theses were frs Bath (1869), Beaugendre(October 1870), Tholon, (October 1871) Deniuod, (December 1871) Artero (April 1872), Pages, Literneaux and Jules Poirier (1873). During one of his scheduled visit to portp -novo Fr. Bouche retured with four OLA sisters to come and run clinics for the sick priests who were suffering mostly from malaria fever, filarial fever and black water fever.
In 1873, due to fever and death a number of missionaries were invalided. While some after staying too long on the coast had to return to france. This time, it was Fr. John Baptist chausse ( later Bishop) who became the superior of the new Holy Cross Catholic Mission.
HOLY CROSS CATHEDRAL
As the population of the church increased, the congregation looked on rev. fr chausee for a larger church. The Brazilian worshippers because of their exposure wanted a large ornate and gothic structure while other members of the assembly wanted just a big church, Fr. Chausee set up a building committee to deliberate on the issue, rev. Fr. Chambraud a French architect was invited to build the church. Before then the church was sharing border with the Nigerian prison yard called Ogba Ewon, the officials of the prison wanted part of the church land as an extension of the prison, this created a big problem but in 1877, the land was retrieved back through the help of Messrs Colemand, Carrena, and Rodriquez who approached the governor A.C.Moloney a Catholic who assisted the church in signing of the documentfor the takeover of the church land now freed of acquisition.
In 1878, the foundation of the pro- cathedral was laid on the very spot were the wooden cross was laid fourteen years ago. It was gothic in style, work went uninterrupted by rain , fund and other eventualities. Red bricks were obtained from the kiln of rev. Fr. Francis cloud, he opened a red brick industry for private use many years before the foundation was laid. He died in nice in france on the 22nd of January 1879 a year after the foundation stone of the cathedral was laid. The Brazilian senhors, Titueus and Yoyos where good builders, carpenters, masons and painters etc. they contributed immensely to the building of the cathedral. The first tower with the bell was completed in 1881 while the second tower was completeds in 1883. Senhor fransco nobre was the Brazilian carpenter who did the steps inside the tower to the delight of governor macullum. The reason for the tower was to take the stress created by wind and the tidal waves from (Lagunne Ossa) lagos lagoon, which threatened the foundation of the church. With the two towers erected the building of the pro- cathedral, large, ornate and gothic in style was completed in 1883. Governor moloney helped with fund raising exercise and got the prisoners to clear the area before the opening ceremony. Rev. Fr. Chausee invited rev. Fr. Auguste Monroe the superior of Ghana formally gold coast to preach the sermon. About four thousand worshippers from agoue, port novo, whydah, and Abeokuta etc. they all came for the opening ceremony. In his sermon, Fr. Monroe said "The people's generosity has been richly rewarded', in the past mass was offered in an open room, then in a large compound and now in a beautiful building.
Rev. Fr. Baudin a "Chambrai" catechist was the man who preached in Yoruba to the delight of many lagosians, it brought in new converts. However the church remained a pro-Cathedral until the appointment of the substantive Bishop in 1891. The first Bishop of the vicariate apostolic of bight of benin was john Baptist chausee, who was appointed on may 12, 1891 and died January 30, 1894. He was succeeded by Bishop paul pellet in 1895. Bishop pellet completed the ceiling work of the cathedral with the help of Fr.colchi and that decoration up till today is known as Dolcil ceiling. He was succeeded by Bishop joseph-antoine lang in 1902, Bishop lang died at Bordeaux france on 2nd January 1912 and was succeeded by Bishop Ferdinand terrien in 1912. Bishop terrien was succeeded by Bishop francis O'rouke in 1930. He was formally the titular Bishop of osracine in france. Leo hale taylor (later archBishop) succeeded Bishop O'rouke in 1939 and it was during his time that the vicariate was renamed the apostolic vicariate of lagos in January 1943 and also promoted as metropolitan archdiocese of lagos in april 1950. ArchBishop taylor was succeeded by archBishop john kwao amuzu aggey in 1965. ArchBishop okogie succeeded aggey in 1973. He was the third archBishop and the first Nigerian prelate of the cosmopolitan see of lagos, whose seat is at hoy cross cathedral. ArchBishop Alfred adewale martins succeeded Anthony cardinal okogie in may 2012, after his installation on august 4, 2012.
As time on, the population of the Catholics increased. Ships arrived regularly from bahia and the church will not occupy all the worshippers. This clled for the building of another bigger and more ornate and of gothic design and as such the cathedral was demolished in 1934. The old cathedral brings to memory the ordination of the first three Yoruba priests late msgrs. Lawrence layode, Julius onih, and Stephen adewuyi in 1929 by Bishop Thomas brodericks, th apostolic vicar of western Nigeria after the death of Bishop Ferdinand terrien.
The foundation of the new cathedral was laid on the 6th of august, 1934 by Bishop francis O'oruke. It was on the same site where the old cathedral was. The sermon was delivered by Bishop charles heerey CSSp and it was (also gothic in style like the old cathedral). The builder was Fr. Aimen Simon. The building was completed after the death of Bishop O'rouke. He was buried in the cathedral sanctuary in 1938.
Finally, it is necessary to mention some prominent Brazilian Catholics within the community popo aguda area at the time. These were the families of Assumpaco, Britto, Coni, Daimeida, Savage, Carrena, Callisto, Pinheiro, Souza, Silva, Nobre,Santos, Baretto, Siffre,Lopez, Viatonu, Pacheco, Soares, Andre, Palomeras, Ramos, Joan, Augusto, Emilo, Marinho, Damazio, Salvador, Machado, Rhodes, Fereirra, Alcantra, Concalves, Titus, lisboa, Vera-Cruz, Lewis, Da-Rocha, Mederios, Theodorio, Samuel, Brown, Amusu, Vincent, Serrano, Da-Costa, Mendes, Clement Hughes, Sabino, Conde, Severino, Quirino, Brunette, Valentine, Munis, Domingo, Do-regos, Anjou, Emidio, Campos, Joachim, Quimbra, Francisco, Verrisimo, Martins, Gomes, Cardoso, Bastos, Fernandez, Ganzalo, Terzise, Pereira, Margins, Thompso, Branco,Wekey, Phillips, Pedro, Williams Beecroft,Thomas, Smith, Mendes, Anthonio, Emmanuel, Beckley, George, Rodrigues, John, Joseph, Paul, Reis, Meranda, Machado, Castro, Campbell, Hoquart, Daniel, Emil, Yaya Johanna, aka, Yaya Tokunbo, Perera, Dos Anjou, Branco, Amidu, Adu, Da Silva, etc
BY ENGR. F.B.A. OGUNDIPE