< Last Photo   << Last Chapter                Notes on the Geography of Places: South Africa: Cape Town Churches         Next Chapter >>   Next Photo > 
 

Notes on the Geography of South Africa: Cape Town Churches

Five churches and two cemeteries. What better way to spend a day?

Make default image size larger

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 1

The Groote Kerk was begun in 1700 on land then part of the Company Garden. The building was rebuilt and enlarged about 1780. Is it classical? Is it Gothic? Only the builder at that time, Hermann Schutte, knows, and he sure isn't telling. Oberholster writes that "there are certainly few buildings that are regarded with such respect or evoke such piety." (Historical Monuments of South Africa, 1972, p. 5.)

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 2

The interior, seating 3,000, is perhaps more impressive than the exterior. From a technical viewpoint, the triumph is the clear span of the plastered ceiling.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 3

As a spiritual space, the interior is impressive simply because of its spaciousness, which creates a sense of freedom without the usual emphasis on height. The organ, installed in 1841, is unusual. It's the biggest organ in the southern hemisphere and, since you're sensible enough to say that size doesn't matter, you should know it sounds good, too. The church has hardly changed since the organ's arrival.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 4

The pulpit, of timber from India, is by Anreith, 1779. It stayed in place, covered up, when the building was rebuilt around it.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 5

An Afrikaner Scot? Come again? But a number of Scots were imported by the British in hopes that they would Anglicize the Boers. Instead they went native, learned Afrikaans, and became leading figures in the Dutch Reformed Church. The town of Robertson is named for this same Dr. Robertson. The top of the caption reads: "To the glory of God and to the memory of William Robertson."

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 6

Talk about contrast. Just below is a squatter settlement at the edge of the Malay Quarter; to its left, a mosque. In the distance is the city's highrise skyline, impressive only to an agent selling office space. In the middle distance is the golden trio of the Lutheran church flanked by two houses, though both are now used for other purposes. Not so the church.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 7

On the left, the so-called Sexton's House, now the Dutch embassy. On the right, the parsonage, now the gold museum. In the middle, the Lutheran church built by Martin Melck under the subterfuge that he was building a warehouse. No choice: the government allowed churches of any and all denominations, so long as they were Dutch Reformed. The "warehouse" was completed in 1776 with organ and lectern, was used almost at once for services, and, the government relenting, acquired a pastor in 1779. The facade ornament is by the busy, busy Anton Anreith, but the chunky spire is not his fault: it was added in 1818.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 8

"Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." That would be Proverbs 9:10. A great motto for schoolteachers everywhere, though useless now that corporal punishment is foolishly forbidden. The swan is a common touch on Lutheran churches and refers to Luther himself. Long story. Nice fanlight?

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 9

Think you can buy a lock at Home Depot that will last as long as this one?

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 10

Amazing contrast between the pulpit and the ceiling. The pulpit is by Anreith. The ceiling is by... Anonymous.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 11

Yes, yes, everyone complains about out-of-focus photos on this site, but you take what you can get. The words set into the wall sure look like "Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott." The pulpit looks like a trumpet blast fixed in wood.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 12

A few blocks away, the Dutch Reformed Church completed this Sendinggestig or Mission Institute church for colored worshippers in 1804. It was almost demolished in 1971 but eventually restored in 1971 and stands now as a museum.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 13

The interior, with a pulpit from 1824, looks a great deal like the Lutheran church. Do we have a case of copycatting? The balcony-support columns are wood, not iron; the balconies are teak; the pews, oak.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 14

The Metropolitan Methodist church was built to serve the needs of a congregation dating from the British arrival at the Cape. The architect was the same Charles Freeman who designed the Standard Bank building. The church opened in 1879 and in an era beguiled by the Gothic was judged the finest church in the colony.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 15

Of course there's an Anglican church. A cathedral, in fact, with a band arriving for Easter.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 16

The architect was alpha-dog Herbert Baker. Begun in 1901, it was more or less completed by 1936. Surprisingly, it struggles with serious maintenance problems.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 17

Same old, same old.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 18

The Victorians loved their monuments, perhaps because their widowed queen was so sentimental. This one, in any case, was carved in England by William Butterfield and erected in Cape Town in 1876.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 19

Inside, a memorial to Milner, who led the government at an exceedingly difficult time and who left South Africa in such a discouraged state of mind that he had not the heart to accept the viceroyalty of India.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 20

The Great Synagogue, almost hidden by oaks in the Company Garden. Completed in 1904.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 21

Its quasi-Egyptian predecessor, from 1862.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 22

An abandoned chapel stands forlorn in the middle of the Maitland Cemetery, six miles north of the city center.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 23

Begun in 1886, Maitland has 100,000 burials spread over 250 acres. By 1897 it was described as the largest cemetery in the colony, with daily funeral trains from the city. It's in astonishingly poor condition.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 24

Another view.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 25

Good money was spent here by someone who would not be happy with the cemetery today. Then again, he's not going to complain.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 26

We're back up on the hillside where we started. Why?

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 27

Here's why: it's the Tana Baru or "New Ground" cemetery above the Malay Quarter or Bo-Kaap. The cemetery has been closed to burials since 1883.

South Africa: Cape Town Churches picture 28

A translation would help. We're working on it.


www.greatmirror.com Web   
 

* Australia * Austria * Bangladesh * Belgium * Botswana * Brazil * Burma / Myanmar * Cambodia (Angkor) * Canada (B.C.) * China * The Czech Republic * Egypt * Fiji * France * Germany * Ghana * Greece * Hungary * India: Themes * Northern India * Peninsular India * Indonesia * Israel * Italy * Japan * Jerusalem * Jordan * Kenya * Laos * Kosovo * Malawi * Malaysia * Mauritius * Mexico * Morocco * Mozambique * Namibia * The Netherlands * New Zealand * Nigeria * Norway * Oman * Pakistan * The Philippines * Poland * Portugal * Senegal * Singapore * South Africa * Spain * Sri Lanka * Sudan * Syria (Aleppo) * Tanzania * Thailand * Trinidad * Turkey (Istanbul) * Uganda * The U.A.E. (Dubai) * The United Kingdom * The Eastern United States * The Western United States * Oklahoma * Uzbekistan * Vietnam * The West Bank * Yemen * Zambia * Zimbabwe *
go back to previous picture go to next chapter go to next picture go to previous chapter page