Regina Mundi Catholic Church
Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Moroka, Soweto, was built in 1964. Not only is it one of the biggest churches in Africa, but it has a unique history too. It became famous during the apartheid years when it opened its doors to anti-apartheid groups and activists. In those days church services often ended up as political rallies. It continues to play a vital role and remains the spiritual haven for thousands of Sowetans, and it continues to attract tourists from all over the world.
On 16 June 1976 protesting students fled to Regina Mundi to escape the police’s bullets and teargas canisters. The police followed the students into the church, firing live ammunition and damaged some of the church’s sacred figures. The bullets’ marks are still evident in the church today.
Between 1995 and 1998, part of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings were held in Regina Mundi.
On 30 November 1997, Mr Nelson Mandela paid tribute to the church during a ceremony marking its restoration and established this day as Regina Mundi Day.
In his speech Mr Mandela said Regina Mundi is “a church that refused to allow God’s name to be used to justify discrimination and repression”.
In March 1998 Regina Mundi made international headlines when President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary visited the church, and recently, on 22 June 2011, the American first lady, Michelle Obama visited the church and addressed women from different countries.
The A-shaped exterior of the building is quite simple in design compared to most catholic churches. Its main feature is the vast interior.
It can seat 2000 people and has standing room for another 5000 people.
The most prominent artefacts in the church are, a picture of The Black Madonna depicting a black Virgin Mary holding a black infant, Jesus. It was created in 1973 by Larry Scully as a part of a campaign to raise funds for the education of black South Africans, the second one being its stained-glass windows, decorated with scenery of Mary’s life. These windows were donated by Mrs Jolanta Kwasniewska, wife of the President of the Republic of Poland in 1998.
The church’s garden has been transformed into a beautiful park with memorial stones donated by Japanese Christians. Its well manicured lawns joins the Tokoza Park.