Sending Gestig Church

The SA Sendinggestig Museum in Long Street comprises the oldest indigenous mission church in South Africa and its contents. This church is architecturally unique in the country. It was the first building in the form of a basilica with an apsis, and it remained the only one of its kind till later in the nineteenth century. All the windows of the church are small-scale replicas of this ground plan. The church has the only surviving example: of a steeply pitched lime-concrete roof.

(This form of construction was developed at the Cape specifically for flat roofs.) The facade is unrivalled. It features Corinthian pilasters carrying a finely moulded cornice, surmounted by a gable: with a circular ventilator and carrying four urns. The pilasters are in fact the only Corinthian ones executed in plaster that survive in the Cape.The interior of the church is an extremely handsome hall with one traverse and two side galleries resting on eight Ionian wooden columns. The imposing pulpit made by F. Kannemeyer in neo-classical style, the beautiful organ with decorated pipes, the carved oak pews and long teak balconies undoubtedly)’ contribute towards making it the finest early mission church in the Cape.

The atmosphere is overwhelmingly serene and the acoustics widely acclaimed.

The church was built from 1802-1804 by the South African Missionary Society, which was founded in 1799 on an ecumenical basis. It was used for divine services, meetings of the directors and members of but more specifically for religious and literacy instruction of the slaves and other non-Christians at the Cape. The congregation, which developed from these activities, used the church for more than a century. In 1971 they sold the church-, which had become extremely dilapidated, to a business concern and erected a new church in Belhar.

Through the intervention of concerned conservationists and the aid of the Cape Provincial Administration the building was saved from demolition and thoroughly restored. In 1977 it was declared a Province-aided Museum as well as a Historical Monument.The theme governing all exhibits is: Mission work initiated and undertaken by South Africans. Apart from the church furniture a large number of original documents are exhibited. The main exhibit is a very professional thematic display on ten illuminated panels, through which visitors are introduced to the earliest missionary enterprise at the Cape and environs and the role it played in the development of the community.

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