Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family, Nairobi

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Nairobi Cathedral
Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family
Holy Family Basilica (Nairobi, Kenya) 02.JPG
Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi Cathedral is located in Nairobi
Nairobi Cathedral
Nairobi Cathedral
shown within the city
1°17′13″S 36°49′14″E / 1.28694°S 36.82056°E / -1.28694; 36.82056Coordinates: 1°17′13″S 36°49′14″E / 1.28694°S 36.82056°E / -1.28694; 36.82056
Location City Square, Nairobi
Country Kenya
Denomination Roman Catholic
Architect(s) Dorothy Hughes
Style Modernist
Height 98 feet
Materials Stainless steel windows and marble details
Archdiocese Archdiocese of Nairobi
Archbishop John Njue
Deacon(s) Alex Ng’ang’a

The Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family is a Roman Catholic cathedral and basilica dedicated to the Holy Family located around City Square in Nairobi, Kenya. The basilica is the seat of the Archdiocese of Nairobi.[1]


The congregation of the cathedral was originally composed of railway construction workers who lived in a camp nearby what would become the first Nairobi Railway Station. Under the administration of the Holy Ghost Fathers, Brother Josaphat, C.S.S.P (Holy Ghost Missionary) was entrusted with the building of a church in 1904.[2] With a sitting capacity of 300–400 people, it was the first stone building in Nairobi.[2][3] The first baptism took place in 1906, the first marriage in 1908, and first confirmation in 1923.[2]

The first Archbishop of Nairobi was John Joseph McCarthy who was appointed in 1953 and he would serve until 1971 when he retired.[4]

Dorothy Hughes, who was brought up in Kenya, designed the current building in 1960. The cathedral was constructed by the British company Mowlem. The modernist cathedral features abstract stained glass in stainless steel frames. The cathedral's specification included details in carrara marble[5] and seating for 3,000 to 4,000 people.[2] This is ten times the number of the original stone church. The building is 98 feet high and features a large cross. Hughes' design features eight different chapels in addition to the two main halls. There is a main altar with a large crucifix and a large sanctuary, as well as two side altars.[6]

The church was visited by John Paul II in 1980 and designated a basilica on 15 February 1982.[1] John Paul prayed again at this church in 1985 and 1995.[3] The Holy Ghost Fathers were responsible for the basilica until 1991.[2]

A new administrative building for the archbishop's office was being built by the Chinese construction company Zhongxing Construction in 2011.[7]


The cathedral is the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Nairobi.[6] The current archbishop is John Njue who was made a Cardinal in 2007.[8] The Archdiocese of Nairobi contains an estimated population of 4 million people of which 1.6 million are thought to be Catholic. These 4,000 Christian communities are served by 182 clergy, eight university level education facilities and several places for retreat.[9]

Services are available though-out the week within the Cathedral and one of the chapels is always open.[9] In addition the building also houses a bookshop and a school.[10]


  1. ^ a b Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family,, Retrieved 27 October 2015
  2. ^ a b c d e Welcome to Holy Family Basilica, Holy Family Basilica, Retrieved 28 October 2015
  3. ^ a b Kenya: centenary celebrations at Nairobi's Basilica, 2004, Independent Catholic News, Retrieved 28 October 2015
  4. ^ Archbishop John Joseph McCarthy, C.S.Sp., Catholic hierarchy, retrieved 28 October 2015
  5. ^ O’Toole, Sean (23 April 2015). "International Style". London, England: Frieze Magazine. Archived from the original on 20 October 2015. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Top 20 Buildings in Kenya". Nairobi, Kenya: Daily Kenya. 27 September 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  7. ^ China is building churches for Christians. In Africa,, 29 September 2011, Retrieved 28 October 2015
  8. ^ John Njue,, Retrieved 28 October 2015
  9. ^ a b The Archdiocese of Nairobi, Retrieved 29 October 2015
  10. ^ Nairobi's cathedral draws worshippers to noon weekday mass, Christina S.N.Lewis, September 2011, National Catholic Reporter, Retrieved 28 October 2015

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