Cape Town’s Historic St George’s Cathedral

Designed by renowned British architect, Sir Herbert Baker, the Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr, better known as St George’s Cathedral, in Cape Town had its foundation stone laid in 1901 by the Duke of Cornwall and York, who later became King George V. Ordained as bishop of the Diocese of Cape Town in 1847, Robert Gray dreamed of building a magnificent cathedral in place of the modest parish church situated at the corner of Wale Street and Government Avenue. This did not come about in his lifetime, but the dream did eventually become a reality, albeit over an extended period of time, with construction taking place in bits and pieces, and the building not yet complete. St George’s Cathedral is an awe-inspiring building that has played a significant role in the history of both Cape Town and the nation.

With its distinctive Victorian-era design, colourful stained-glass windows and courtyard garden completed with a labyrinth, St George’s Cathedral was constructed from sandstone cut from Table Mountain. It is the oldest cathedral in southern Africa and is known affectionately as the “people’s church” as, even during the apartheid era, all races have always been welcome there. It was from St George’s Cathedral that Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously led a mass anti-apartheid demonstration of 30,000-strong to Cape Town’s Grand Parade in 1989 and coined the phrase ‘rainbow people’ to describe the diversity of South Africa’s population. This phrase has morphed into the much-used term ‘rainbow nation’.

Tours of St George’s Cathedral can be arranged on request and a number of groups associated with the Cathedral hold events and organize outreach programs within the community. Other places of interest near the Cathedral include the Slave Lodge and the Company Gardens. Visitors to Cape Town may want to make use of the hop on-hop off service offered by City Sight Seeing Cape Town. Starting at the Two Ocean Aquarium, the bus takes visitors to more than a dozen of Cape Town’s top attractions, including St George’s Cathedral.