St Georges Cathedral, Cape Town
St George’s Cathedral, 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 - lies on Wale Street in Cape Town, and is known as ‘the people’s cathedral’ because of its role in the resistance against 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. And the Cathedral’s accessibility to all people of Cape Town doesn’t stop there.
The Very Reverend Rowan Smith is one of the first priests in the country to be open about his sexual identity, and, far from being rejected by St George’s congregation for his gay orientation, he has been accepted by his church. St Geoge's Cathedral is the site of one of the country’s few labyrinths, and its stained glass windows include the work of Gabriel Loire. 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’.
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