Friday, 17 July 2015

Saint Mary's Parish Church, Port Maria, Jamaica

Now that I have an extended family in Jamaica, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to spend time in such a beautiful country.  While Jamaica is definitely an island of contradictions, immense wealth and glaring poverty, there are so many beautiful spots that overwhelm the senses that it is almost possible to overlook the negative aspects of such a magical place.

Without a doubt, one of my absolute most adored places in Jamaica is the rugged town of Port Maria which hugs the eastern side of the Jamaican coast.  Port Maria is the capital town of the Jamaican Parish of Saint Mary's, and was originally called Puerto Santa Maria by early Spanish settlers to Jamaica.  It was in fact the second town established by the Spaniards, the first being Spanish Town on the western coast of Jamaica not too far from Old Port Royal.

Whenever we're in Jamaica we always stay in the resort town of Ocho Rios. Not only is it the halfway point from the airport in Montego Bay to where Howard's mom, sister and cousins live, it is also a beautiful place to stay. From Ocho Rios, Port Maria is only a thirty minute drive along the coastline, with the beauty of the ocean on your left, and the lush tropical majesty of the Jamaican coast and mountains on your right.  Along the way, you also pass through the equally stunning town of Oracabessa, which is replete with so many pastel coloured homes and structures it almost overwhelms the senses.  After passing through Oracabessa, it is but an additional fifteen minute drive to Port Maria.  You know your getting close when your greeted by a ribbon of road with a stone fence separating you from the ocean to your left, and the sheer rise of the Jamaican mountains your right.

My most favourite place in Port Maria has always and will always be the beautiful Port Maria Anglican Parish Church sitting majestically at the entrance to town on the Jamaican coast.  Constructed of stone in the Gothic Style, this magical church was built in 1861 and has changed very little in it's lifetime, even though it's weathered many floods and tropical calamities.  I have spent a lot of time exploring this church and it's grounds, and have even sang a song or two while in the sanctity of it's hallowed stone walls.  It's sad that the majority of tourists who visit Jamaica most likely never get the opportunity to see these wonderful places, as most stay within the confines of the resorts, only venturing out on structured excursions usually planned by resort staff.

One of the most unique things about Port Maria is that it is bordered to the west by the mountains.  In fact, one of the most unique vantage points to take in the vista of the coastline and the town is to venture up a narrow pockmarked rubble strewn road to Firefly Point high above the town.  Firefly Point was once the home of noted playwright, poet and artist, Noel Coward.  From this lush historic site, you get to experience the full majesty and the entirety of Port Maria spread out far below.  Not only that, but you get the added bonus of being able to see better Carabarita Island which sits but a few hundred metres off the Jamaican coastline.  

Hopefully we will be returning to Jamaica for a few weeks later this year to visit relatives and explore.  One day I hope that we own our own piece of this very magical place, one my heart has come to regard as another place to call home! 

I took the image above standing in the centre of the pews looking towards the nave and the altar.  Please note the pipes of the stunning organ on the right hand side of the nave.

Saint Mary's Church at sunset.  No matter how many times I see this place, I still get goosebumps.

While I don't really like taking "selfies", I took this one behind the church standing on the rocky shoreline as the waves crashed in.  Behind me, you can see a wee peek of Carabarita Island sitting just off the coast.  I love hanging out here on windy wavy days as it is always fun to spot the crabs as they get swept off the rocks by the incoming waves!

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