St Mary's Cathedral, Johannesburg

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St Mary's Cathedral
Cathedral of St Mary the Virgin
Coordinates: 26°11′58″S 28°2′40″E / 26.19944°S 28.04444°E / -26.19944; 28.04444
Location Johannesburg
Country South Africa
Denomination Anglican
Churchmanship Anglo-Catholic
Founded 1887
Dedication Blessed Virgin Mary
Consecrated 29 September 1929
Architect(s) Sir Herbert Baker and Frank Fleming
Style Romanesque-Italian
Capacity over 2000
Height Five Storeys high
Materials concrete and stone
Parish Johannesburg
Archdeaconry Archdeaconry of Region 2
Diocese Diocese of Johannesburg
Province Southern Africa
Bishop(s) The Rt. Revd. Stephen Moreo
Dean The Very Revd. Charles May
Organist(s) Sydney Place

Saint Mary's Cathedral, officially the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, is the cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Johannesburg, South Africa.


In 1887, the Reverend John Darragh was appointed rector of the first Saint Mary's Church. A block of land was purchased near Plein, De Villiers and Wanderers Streets in Johannesburg where the Chapel of Saint John Chrysostom was built. The plans of the cathedral were commissioned from the firm of Sir Herbert Baker, and Frank Fleming was the architect in charge. In 1921 the Chapel of All Souls was completed and on 13 May 1926 the construction of the main body of the cathedral commenced. The cathedral was completed and was consecrated on the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, 29 September 1929.[1]

Callinicos notes that in the 1950s St Mary's was one of the few non-racial churches in downtown Johannesburg.[2] The cathedral is famous for its strong ties to the struggle against apartheid. In 1975 Desmond Tutu was appointed as the cathedral's first black dean.[3][4] The dean prior to Tutu was Gonville ffrench-Beytagh who was convicted under South Africa's notorious anti-terrorism legislation, after his successful appeal against the conviction he immediately left South Africa to go into permanent exile. This left a vacancy which allowed Tutu to be appointed as the first black dean. In April 1993 the body of Oliver Reginald Tambo lay in state in the cathedral before he was laid to rest in Benoni.[5]


The cathedral has a total of three chapels: the chapel of Saint John Chrysostom, All Souls Chapel commemorating South Africans who fell in The Great War, and the Chapel of the Holy Spirit where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a tabernacle. The cathedral has two statues of the Madonna, one stands next to the pulpit, another at the entrance of the All Souls Chapel called Mamasoabi (Our Lady of Sorrows). There is a high altar with a baldachin, a huge rood featuring Jesus on his cross, flanked by St.John, Mary, a roman soldier and Mary Magdalene. The rood also bears the Latin inscription Vere Filius Dei Erat Iste (Truly that man was the Son of God).

St Mary's has the largest cathedral pipe organ in South Africa.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "St Mary the Virgin". Joburg. Retrieved 4 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Luli Callinicos (2000). The World that Made Mandela: A Heritage Trail. STE Publishers. ISBN 978-1-919855-01-1. 
  3. ^ Chris van Wyk. Desmond Tutu. Awareness Publishing. pp. 17–. ISBN 978-1-919910-77-2. 
  4. ^ Steven Gish (1 January 2004). Desmond Tutu: A Biography. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 58–. ISBN 978-0-313-32860-2. 
  5. ^ "Great churches and temples of Joburg: St Mary's Cathedral, inner city, 1929". Retrieved 4 March 2014.