Regina Mundi Church
With its classic high A-frame structure, sleek wooden beams and trimmings, and myriad stained-glass windows, the Regina Mundi Church is a sight to behold. Modest on the outside, the inside of the church is a remarkably vast area that can accommodate 2 000 people seated or 5 000 standing.
Built in 1961 and officially opened in 1962, this is South Africa’s largest Roman Catholic Church and it lives up to its name – the Latin reginae mundi means "queen of the world" and is a reference to the Virgin Mother Mary.
Located in Rockville in the middle of Soweto, the church played a significant role in the anti-apartheid struggle and displays the bullet holes to prove it. Notably, it bears scars from the Soweto Uprising, which culminated on 16 June 1976 when students sought refuge within its walls.
Policemen pursued them and fired live ammunition inside the building, damaging the marble altar and crucifix. Today the bullet holes in the church ceiling and the damaged marble serve as tangible evidence of South Africa's violent past.
Because of its role in the fight for freedom, the church is often referred to as "the people's church".
A plaque at the church details its long and eventful history. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1995 to 1998) hearings presided over by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu were hosted at Regina Mundi, and in 1997 former president Nelson Mandela set aside 30 November as "Regina Mundi Day" to honour the church. In 2011, it was visited by Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States.
Regina Mundi houses an art gallery and memorial stones donated by a Japanese Christian community. Artwork includes stained-glass windows of the Annunciation, donated by Jolanta Kwasaniewska.
An honorarium – a mural of the faces of distinguished freedom fighters, including Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Tutu and student leader Tsietsi Mashinini – donated by the Azanian People's Organisation pays further tribute to the struggle heroes of the time.
Present-day Regina Mundi is still an integral part of social life in Soweto, hosting weddings, funerals and baptisms of the famous and the ordinary alike.
Tourists from across the world visit the church daily, and its garden has been transformed into a striking park.
Find Regina Mundi at 1 149 Khumalo Street, Rockville
Tel/fax: +27 (0)11 986 2546