Saint Louis Cathedral in Port Louis is among the oldest church in Mauritius. Built in 1814/15 and promoted to Cathedral in 1847, the church is the final works of Governor Sir Robert Farquar. The site of the church was however identified in the years 1750s sometimes after the departure of Mahe de La Bourdonnais, who had then selected another site for the construction of a place of worship for the inhabitants of Port Louis. Mahe de La Bourdonnais suggested the church to be errected on the current site of the Supreme Court but due to certain restrictions of the proposed site; possibility of further enhancements, water canals etc, the choice was disregarded.
The construction of the church in the shape of a latin cross when viewed from above complied to plans drawn from 1736-1739 by chief engineer Charpentier de Cossigny. The works were supervised by the military engineer Dulac until Cossigny took over. The church building was complete in 1756, but was never used for worship. The edifice was requisitioned for military purposes during the Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763) and was severely damaged by two violent cyclones which hit the island on 27 January 1760 and 10 April 1773. Meanwhile service was still carried on in the Chapel built by Mahe de La Bourdonnais in 1737 also bearing the name of Saint Louis. The latter was located along Royal Street.
Governor Guiran La Brillane was authorized to rebuild the church in 1778 on Champ de Mars street and the rebuilding work was entrusted to engineer Thomas Dayot who also supervised the work of the water canal today known as Canal Dayot. The construction work continued under the governorship of Vicomte de Souillac and was over in 1782. The new Saint Louis church opened to service the same year and the Saint Louis Chapel on the other hand was no longer used.
However, by 1795, dangerous cracks appeared in the architecture of the church and service had to be halted. When the island passed under British Rulership after the battle of 1810 the church was in severe ruin. Luckily, the first British Governor, Sir Robert Farquar showed much interest in reviving the place of worship and the reconstruction works started in 1814 in accordance to the original plans of 1778. The ‘new’ church was open for worship in 1816.
The Church stood for at least a century after which the ageing effects due to too frequent cyclones necessitated a revival in the architecture. The demolition works started on 10 December 1928 and five years later, in 1933, the brand new Saint Louis Cathedral was inaugurated by His Lordship James Leen. The very last renovation of the church was in 2005.
Somehow, one thing that unfortunately has lost its glory of the days is about the fountain found at the front of the Cathedral. This obelisque with four lion heads on each side used to carry water from the ‘Pouce Stream’ towards this part of the city, among others. The ‘monument’ is still present nowadays but doesn’t provide any water… one of the other works of the Governor Vicomte de Souillac.
You can read more about other old churches around Mauritius here.