Words stronger than images in Jamaica

  • In a nod to their reformed and nonconformist Protestant origins, churches in Jamaica tend to have minimal ornamentation. A Seventh Day Adventist church, near St. Anne's in West Kingston.
  • Holy Name of Jesus church, Kingston.
  • Holy Cross Church, near Half Way Tree, Kingston, Jamaica.
  • St. Richard's Church, Kingston, Jamaica
  • Holy Name of Jesus church, Kingston
  • The splendor of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kingston, stands in contrast to the much simpler style of other churches on the island.
  • The dome of Holy Trinity Cathedral
  • Two images at St. Anne's Church, West Kingston, Jamaica, signal different aspects and eras of Jamaican Catholicism.
  • In older and poorer areas of the city, painted murals like this, often including psalms, are popular.
  • Near St. Anne's, West Kingston, Jamaica
  • Most signs reflect very Protestant imagery. This one cuts it both ways, with a Madonna and Child, and a King James bible reference in the psalm.

The religious culture of Jamaica has been shaped over time by a variety of Protestant churches, all of which have been far more focused on word than image. Jamaican Catholics often say that other Jamaicans often ask why they worship “idols.”

In light of their reformed and nonconformist Protestant orienting traditions, churches in Jamaica typically have minimal ornamentation.  A photographer sent to capture "typical" Jamaican images of religion might picture a woman and children walking to church carrying the bible and dressed in Sunday best, or singers singing at a revival-type service on a Sunday morning. 

In poorer neighborhoods, one does often see walls painted with psalms and images of crosses, but more middle class and upper middle class areas one sees few of those same images of religiosity. Even business signs tend to be more word oriented, rather than image oriented there.

Catholic church settings often, but not always, tend to stand out from Protestant ones for their more elaborate decorative schemes, though typically this is evident only in the interior. 

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Footnotes