Information and history

ID #5321

Inside the Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Grahamstown, Settler Country, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Building on St George’s Church began in 1824 to serve both the British Garrison as well as the people of Grahamstown. A functional building of no particular architectural style or merit, it opened for worship in 1830. A Bishop of Grahamstown was appointed in 1853 and St George’s became a cathedral. At the same time Grhamstown was proclaimed a city. The noted English architect Sir Gilbert Scott was invited to prepare plans to upgrade or replace the existing building. The present spire and town were added in 1879. The chancel (that part of the building furthest from the tower) was built in 1893. The cathedral was renamed St Michael and St George to heal a rift in the congregation. The nave, joining the tower and the chancel, was completed in 1912. The original south wall was retained. Finally, after 128 years, the Lady Chapel was added. Features include:

o High Altar and East Window. Painting is a copy of the fresco by Perugino in Florence. It depicts the throne of God surrounded by saints
o Chancel: Completed in 1893, it provides seating for church dignitaries, choirs etc. The furnishing was carved by local Xhosa apprentices.
o Organ: In a large chamber with pipes ranging in size from 30 cm to 5m.
o Pulpit: Ornate carvings of biblical scenes
o Memorial Tablets: Dating back to the 1840’s. Words now considered to be offensive have been censored.
o South Wall: The oldest part of the cathedral, this wall is all that survives of the original church built in 1824.
o Font: Donated in 1893, it is used for baptisms
o Tower: Completed in 1879 it is 50m high and is the highest church building in South Africa. It has a ring of 10 bells – the largest and heaviest in South Africa.
o Memorial Tablets on the North Wall: In memory of those who died in 2 world wars. The artist of the lower two tablets signed them by carving a mouse on his work.
o Lady Chapel: Named in honour of St Mary, this completed construction of the cathedral in 1952. Used for weekday services.
o Pelican Lectern: It used to be believed that pelicans broke their own skin to feed their chicks. A metaphor for the sacrificial death of Christ.
o Mural Paintings: Painted on canvas in the mural style in England and pasted on the wall.
o Bishop’s Throne: “Cathedra” – Latin for chair – makes this church a cathedral. Now ceremonial in use.



attached files: Cathedral of St Michael and St George_1.jpg

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Last update: 2014-02-28 16:05
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.6

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