St George's Cathedral

Found on Wale Street, St George's Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in South Africa. It is the mother church of the Anglican diocese of Cape Town.

St George's Cathedral was built by Sir Herbert Baker out of sandstone from Table Mountain. The Cathedral was the vision of Robert Gray, the first Bishop of Cape Town. Robert Gray wanted to have a cathedral worthy of the Mother City.

St George's Cathedral, a symbol of Gothic architecture, is a classic cruciform building. Indeed, St George's Cathedral displays Victorian-age design, complete with stained glass windows and a crypt. It has a courtyard garden including a labyrinth. The administrative offices of the Cathedral are housed in cloisters facing the courtyard.

Another great feature of St George’s Cathedral is the set of 10 ringing bells. The faithful band of cathedral ringers are on duty every Sunday and they regularly host ringing groups from around the world and invite them to chime in at both weekend services

Everyone is welcome to visit the Cathedral to learn more about its history, to visit the Crypt and to view its magnificent design and stained glass windows. Guided tours can be arranged.

Apart from visiting the impressive cathedral, you can take a meditative walk through the St George’s Cathedral labyrinth. Regular exhibitions are also organised by the St George's Cathedral.

Also, services take place at 10h00 and 19h00, and strongly emphasize on developing the faith of young people.

Guided tour of St George's Cathedral

Cathedral members conduct tours by arrangement. They meet groups, such as Confirmation candidates from other parishes, school learners and members of cultural societies, and tell them the history of the Cathedral, its significance in terms of the life of the Church and its heritage.

They conduct these tours to highlight points of interest in the Cathedral and its treasures. A full tour takes about an hour.

Cathedral Guides welcome opportunities to conduct tours and also welcome people who are willing and able to join as guides.

St George's Cathedral as The People's Cathedral

The Cathedral is also known as 'The People's Cathedral'. This is because it has a major role to play in opposing apartheid. It earned this name when, despite the segregation laws, it welcomed all races during the apartheid era. That is mainly because of the event on 13 September 1989, more than four years before the democratic South African elections of 27 April 1994.

On that day, more than 30 000 people, drawn from all the races and culture groups of Cape Town, were led in a mass protest march from St George’s Cathedral by the legendary Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others.

It was as if South Africa had had enough of apartheid. It was time for the people to say NO to Apartheid and they would no longer tolerate the State of Emergency of those days, enforced racial segregation and the long years of political violence.

The march went off peacefully and the authorities remained at bay. There was no confrontation, because even the powers of the day could sense the anger in the people. Change was coming to South Africa.

It is also believed that Desmund Tutu coined an important phrase connected to that event: ‘And so we came to the cathedral to pray, Muslim, Jew, Christian, black, white – our rainbow nation – and as we walked out into the streets of Cape Town it was exhilarating to be joined by thousands, swept along in the realisation of the dream that freedom is possible.'

St George’s Cathedral had, by then, become a refuge for the underprivileged and politically oppressed.

Its glorious stained glass windows include a white Christ and a black Christ, while is highly symbolical in the context of South Africa.

Brief history of St George's Cathedral

The original St George's Church was built in the style of St Pancras Church in London. It featured six stone pillars whose places are now marked by oak trees on the Cathedral steps.

The church opened on Christmas 1834 and was made a cathedral in 1847 while waiting for the arrival of the first Anglican Bishop in Africa, Robert Gray. However, Robert Gray was not impressed by the building. Both Bishop Gray and his successor William West Jones wished for a grander cathedral that would be worthy of the Mother City but neither lived to see it built.

The current building was designed by the famous architect Herbert Baker. The foundation stone was laid in 1901 by the future King George V and can be seen from the bottom of the Avenue leading into the Company's Garden.

However, the construction did not begin until 1906 at the eastern end. The completion of the north transept in 1936 finally brought Herbert Baker's design to life. In 1963 the Lady Chapel and south aisle were completed, and in 1978 the Bell Tower and the Link were constructed.

Even after all these years, the Cathedral remains a work-in-progress as there was intended to be a Chapter House attached to the end of the Link.

The Crypt

Built in 1898, the Crypt is an important Cape Town landmark and museum. It is a historic meeting place beneath St. George's where African and International jazz, cultures and cuisine fuse. Now a jazz restaurant, The Crypt serves lunch and dinner in a setting that retains a sense of its history and charm.