St George's Cathedral

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St George's Cathedral (in full, The Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr) lies on Wale Street in Cape Town, and is the Anglican cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cape Town.

The building

The cathedral was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and the foundation stone was laid in 1901. The cathedral replaced a church built in 1834 on the same site, and is still incomplete.

A gorgeous example of Victorian era design with magnificent stained glass windows and a crypt in which there is a restaurant - reminiscent of St Martin’s in the Field in London - and is known as ‘the people’s cathedral’ because of its role in the resistance against apartheid. The central panel of the great west window is dominated by the figure of the triumphant Christ. This Christ is black - a visual counterpart to the white Christ of Calvary that stands above the High Altar - a bid to make sure that the Cathedral’s images of Christ represent the fullness of humanity. The right-hand panel of this work includes the figure of Mahatma Gandhi because of his inspiration to combat racism with love. It is also a tribute to the inter-faith co-operation central to the Cathedral’s vision as a genuinely ‘people’s cathedral’.

The cathedral and apartheid

St George’s kept its doors open to people of all races throughout the apartheid era, and it was Archbishop Desmond Tutu, after he led a mass demonstration of 30 000 people to Grand Parade in 1989, who coined the phrase ‘rainbow people’ to describe South Africa’s diverse population.

The cathedral and theatre

Not only often used for political rallies in the apartheid era, it has also been used for theatrical performances over the years. The venue was often referred to as the Drama Centre or simply The Centre. Among those involved over the years have been Jo Dunstan, Peter Krummeck, John Ramsdale, Rosalie van der Gucht.

Pieces performed include: Murder in the Cathedral (T.S Eliot), Living and Laughter (Shakespeare/Dunstan), Bonhoeffer (Krummeck). Syrkel’s first performance **.


E-mail correspondence from Laurence Jacobs, August, 2020, containing information supplied by John Ramsdale.

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