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Church for Bishop Jolivet
Mthatha, Eastern Cape


Type:Roman Catholic Church
Street:Cor Craister & Leeds Streets


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31°35'23.47" S 28°47'01.24" E Alt: 699m

(OU 1; PTW&B:28)

Now known as 'All Saints Catholic Cathedral – Amaroma'.

The church was built for Bishop Charles Constant JOLIVET.

Since 1851, Umtata was under the jurisdiction of the Vicariate of Natal. In 1882 some of the Catholics of Umtata petitioned Bishop Jolivet at Pietermaritzburg, requesting him to send a priest to Umtata. Following a preliminary assessment of the situation by Father Baudry, Bishop Jolivet decided to visit and arrived in Umtata late in October 1882. He found not only a good number of Catholic families, but also many Catholic soldiers - mostly Irish - in the Cape Mounted Rifles garrison. Thus on All Saints' Day, 1 November 1882, the Bishop laid the foundation stone of a small, simple church, dedicating it to All Saints. The Irish soldiers, with the help of the local Catholics, worked on the construction of the church.

The church was a simple rectangular brick building under a double pitched corrugated iron roof, the nave oriented on a north-south axis and the roof ridge terminated at each end with a simple cross. The building was well set back from Craister Street, with the entrance door was on the south side, close to Leeds Road. The entrance was protected by a simple porch - again with a double pitched roof (at a lower level) and a similar cross on the roof ridge. Four sliding sash windows provided light and ventilation on the east and west sides of the church. The altar and sacristy were at the north end of the church, the sacristy accessed by a short flight of steps on the east side. The church was completed during 1883.

In 1893 the church was altered under the direction of Mr. Haefele, an ex Trappist Brother, at which time the sacristy space was incorporated into the church and the altar moved into this space.

To accommodate an increasingly larger congregation, it was decided in 1899 to substantially enlarge the building. This included the addition of a substantial wing to the east (to form a new nave) and the insertion of a substantial pointed arch between the old nave (now the transept) and the new nave. The entrance was also changed to the east side of the nave from Craister Street.The church now had a T-plan and the the congregants faced due west towards the altar on the west side. The Lowry family of Umtata bore the main cost of the construction. The new Wing was first used on Palm Sunday 1900 and for forty years this arrangement served the congregation. By 1937 the church had achieved the status of a pro-cathedral.

During WWII, it was again decided to enlarge the existing building. The construction of a new Cathedral would not have been permitted, in view of the strict war-time rationing of building materials. It was therefore decided to add a Sanctuary on the Western side of the existing building, to lengthen the nave on the eastern end with a second 'crossing' or transept, and to flank the eastern end of the extended nave with two towers (originally designed with lofty spires omitted during construction). The Umtata Town Council duly approved the drawings submitted by the Diocesan architect, Fr Lucas LEHMANN, of St. Patrick's Mission. Building operations commenced on 1 July 1942.

On 1 November 1943 - 61 years after Bishop Jolivet had laid the first foundation stone - the new foundation stone was laid at the base of the northern tower and building was completed in 1944. A wood carving firm in Northern Italy, Noflauer, was commissioned to supply a new altar, pulpit, communion rail and wainscoting for the sanctuary. This was delivered to site in January 1948 and once this had been installed, the solemn blessing of the completed church then duly took place on 14/15 August 1949.

In 1967 the roof structure was modified to remove the original stained timber trusses. These were replaced with laminated rafters supported on concrete bases set into the perimeter walls. A ceiling was also installed at the same time.

[Ref: Text transcribed, edited, adapted and extended from: Dischl, Marcel. (Father). One Hundred Years Catholic Church Umtata 1882 - 1982. Umtata, 1981. Submitted by William MARTINSON, January 2011]

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.