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The tower once also served as a lighthouse (Photo by Tahir Jamal/White Star)

Even before dawn breaks on Easter Sunday, the Holy Trinity Cathedral is abuzz with activity as the church bearers lay out hymnals, the choir shuffles into place and the clergy gather to pray in preparation for the five o’clock Sunrise Service. The Sunrise Service follows in the tradition of the very first Easter morning some 2,000 years ago, when a group of women were informed of Jesus’ resurrection by an angel in the early hours of the morning.

Built in the Florentine Renaissance style, the Holy Trinity Cathedral is flanked by Zaibunissa Street and Abdullah Haroon Road and is in proximity to the ever popular Zainab Market and Karachi’s trendiest new hotspot, Atrium Cinemas. However, on Sunday mornings, the bustle of the surrounding office buildings and shopping centres comes to a grinding halt and the Cathedral becomes the centre of activity; all the more so on Easter Sunday when this 800-seat church is filled to capacity.

A stained glass window depicts a scene from the Bible (Photo by Arif Mahmood/White Star)

As the faithful gather at sunrise and at other services throughout Easter morning and the prayerful alleluias rise into the air, faith collides with history beneath the 157 year-old Gizri Sandstone structure that is Holy Trinity. The walls inside the Cathedral are lined with brass and marble plaques paying homage to the servants of the Raj; some killed in battle, others falling prey to cholera and still others lost at sea – the plaques give names and details and are historical documents in themselves. At the front and in the centre are three large stained glass windows depicting various Biblical scenes; the portrayal of the characters is (unsurprisingly) Victorian. With all the historical trappings in place, it’s not difficult to imagine similar Easter services taking place a hundred years ago.

The baptismal font adorned with flowers (Photo by Tahir Jamal/White Star)

As each service ends, the worshippers pass by a baptismal font of red Portland Stone, large enough to hold a medium sized toddler and then out through the Cathedral’s beautifully carved Romanesque entry arch. As they exchange Easter greetings and share tea, biscuits and a chat, worshippers stand in the shadow of a three-tiered clock tower studded with narrow Venetian windows. The tower was once five storeys and 150 feet high and served as a lighthouse for ships approaching Karachi Harbour. However, the top two layers were removed in 1904 when they threatened to fall over.

As the worshippers disperse from the grounds to continue their Easter celebrations elsewhere, Captain John Hill’s (the chief designer of the Cathedral) buff coloured building, once likened by the explorer Richard Burton to a “hammer with its handle turned heavenwards” lies serenely in wait of yet another Sunday when it will be, once more, the hub of activity.

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– Marylou Andrew
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