Christmas 2013 stamps from the Tristan da Cunha Post Office

November 22nd, 2013

A very special set of stamps honouring the two main places of worship on Tristan da Cunha has been released to coincide with the 90th Anniversary of St Mary's Church.

The two main religions followed in Tristan are Anglican and Roman Catholicism, both of course being Christian with the Anglican religion being the senior of the two.

The issue consists of four stamps, two celebrating the Anglican Faith and the other two the Roman Catholic Faith.

The layout of the stamps is unusual as they are produced in sheets of 10 stamps with a label in the center.

Sheet one consists of five stamps depicting the exterior of St Mary's Church denominated 35p, five stamps depicting Canterbury Cathedral denominated £1.10p and a half stamp sized label in the gutter with a photographic portrait of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Sheet two consists of five stamps depicting the exterior of St Joseph's Church denominated 35p, five stamps depicting St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City denominated £1.10p and a half stamp sized label in the gutter with a photographic portrait of the new Pope, His Holiness Francis I.

St Mary's Church was built in typical Tristan building style and was opened for worship in 1923 - gable ends hewn by axe from the soft volcanic tuff found in the cliffs behind the Settlement, wood inside gleaned from shipwrecks and a tin coated corrugated steel roof providing a noisy accompaniment to hymns and prayers during rain storms.

The bell was obtained from a shipwreck, and volcanic stone has been used to make a boundary wall to protect the treasured garden. The Church was extended and re-decorated in a more modern style in 1990/1 and a vestry extension was completed in 2002.

There is currently no resident priest at St Mary's although the position has been advertised and services are conducted by local lay readers. Island born Lorna Lavarello-Smith living in the UK has been ordained as a priest although there is no guarantee that she would be posted back to Tristan.

St Joseph's Church was built in 1995/6 to replace a smaller church on the same site built in 1983. The Roman Catholic faith was brought to Tristan by two Irish sisters, Elizabeth and Agnes Smith who had married Tristan men who returned to settle in 1908.

Their descendants are the core of an active Catholic community which celebrates mass every Sunday at 9am.

Again there is no resident Priest, but lay ministers who are all grandchildren of Agnes Smith conduct the services.

Visitors to Tristan da Cunha will see a stunning stained glass window in the front porch of St Joseph's Church which depicts Our Lady, Star of the Sea, with a Tristan longboat in full sail and a Yellow-Nosed Albatross with the snow-capped Tristan da Cunha island behind.