There is a small part of Guangzhou where I am disoriented and nearly convinced I am actually in Zürich walking beside the Grossmünster Kirche, laced into a mesh of wandering alleys and and city from before cars. It was only today I went there for the first time, between Jiefang Nan Lu and Renmin Nan Lu, close enough to the river that had it not been assaulted with unlivable high-rise white-collar slum apartments, the view from the southern bank would be one of a colossal, Gothic French Church.
Guangzhou is home to at least eleven notable historic churches, built between 1850 and the early 20th century, but of these, 石室圣心教堂 or Sacred Heart Cathedral is a geographic anachronism, as strange as finding a Ziggurat in St Kilda. Compared to the other churches, all of modest size and understated, being organic parts of their districts, 石室 is a monstrous, colonial behemoth that would not be intimidated next to any overwrought flexing of religious catechism on the alluvial banks of the Limmat.
Along with 东山浸信会堂 Dong Shan Baptist Church, instead of rapture sublimated into architecture, there were gutted hulks. Restoration here seems to not follow the careful archaeology of Europe, rather in a manner owing something to obsessive-compulsive cleaners, everything is ripped back to the bare structural granite and built back out.