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SSoweto is home to many political tributes and memorials of heroes and champions of the struggle – those who have dedicated their lives to fighting for the freedom of the people of South Africa. Soweto has played host to some of the most historic events that can be attributed to the long positive trajectory that South Africa finds itself in today.
One such historic monument is the Regina Mundi Church, the largest Roman Catholic Church in South Africa. The church is located in the middle of Soweto, in Rockville, in the neighbourhood of Moroka. It was built in 1961 and officially opened on 24 July 1962 by Johannes Baptista Montini, a cardinal of Milan.
TThe church engraved its name in South Africa's history books during apartheid, when it opened its doors to anti-apartheid groups and provided shelter to activists. At first sight, the church looks ordinary but upon closer gaze and inspection you start appreciating the vintage interior that can accommodate as many as 2000-5000 people.
Despite the massive renovations that the church has undergone, it has managed to retain key historical attributes that commemorate the role it played during the struggle. The damage caused by bullets on the furniture, symbolic ornaments and religious representations are still visible. A damaged marble stand provides tangible evidence of the painful history. Due to the significant role it played as a place of assembly for the people of Soweto in previous years, it is often referred to as "the people's church".
Regina Mundi Church
OOn 30 November 1997, former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela paid tribute to the church by declaring 30 November as Regina Mundi Day - “a church that refused to allow God’s name to be used to justify discrimination and repression.”
The church houses numerous donated artefacts. The most noticeable piece is 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 noticeable artefact is its stained glass windows decorated with scenery of Mary’s life. These windows were donated by Mrs Jolanta Kwasniewska, wife of the President of Poland in 1998.
TThe Regina Mundi Church is still firmly rooted in the community and is accessible to both locals and international visitors. True to its identity as “the people's church" this historical landmark has played host to world leaders and tourists, most notably, Bill and Hillary Clinton and recently Michelle Obama who addressed the Young African Women Leaders Forum.
Take a tour of Soweto, Johannesburg’s vibrant city-within-a-city – apart from learning the history of the struggle against apartheid, you can immerse yourself in a modern urban vibe with lots to do.
Soweto Bicycle Tours let you explore South Africa’s most famous township’s streets with a qualified guide, taking in historical sites like the former homes of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu.
South African urban architectural design tours introduce visitors to the eclectic array of styles and influences behind the country’s most iconic buildings.
South Africans are a diverse mix of peoples from Africa, Europe, Asia and elsewhere, and the many museums scattered around the country preserve rich histories, heritages and cultural traditions.
South Africa is a country of rich religious diversity, protected by the Constitution, so explore sacred architecture and spiritual traditions at our many historic places of worship.
Wits Art Museum – part of the University of the Witwatersrand – houses an African art collection that was started in the 1920s and includes masks, photographs, paintings and more.
There are many well-known historic and contemporary art works on display in art museums and galleries in each of South Africa's 9 provinces, with many important permanent art collections centred in the country's major cities.