The 10 Most Beautiful Churches in South Africa

Be you an architecture enthusiast or just a regular tourist, one of the best things to scope out while visiting South Africa is its numerous beautiful churches steeped in rich history. While many of them date back to the 19th and 20th centuries and are built in the timeless gothic and Norman styles, some of the more recently-constructed ones depart from those signature designs for a more contemporary look. Whichever one it is, we can assure you that your eyes are in for a treat when you visit some of the remarkable churches that the rainbow nation has got to offer.

Most Beautiful Churches in South Africa

1. Dutch Reformed Church Swellendam

  • Location: Swellendam, Western Cape
  • Capacity: 1400
  • Founder: Christoffel Koents
  • Built in: 1911
  • Designer: N/A

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A look at the astonishing white exterior of the Dutch Reformed Church in Swellendam would clue you in as to why it ranks amongst the most beautiful and most photographed churches in South Africa. Originally built in 1802 and then rebuilt a century later, the church is a mixture of styles. The gables are baroque, the windows are gothic, the cupola slightly eastern, and the steeple extravagant. The tower, which is a replica of a famous tower in Belgium, houses two bells. Inside the church itself, you will find a tiered amphitheater with banks of curving wood pews facing the pulpit and organ.

2. Dutch Reformed Church, Groot Kerk

  • Location: Graff Reinert
  • Capacity: 1,250
  • Founder: Murray Andrew
  • Built in: 1886
  • Designer: N/A

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If you are a history buff, then an outing at the Dutch Reformed Church Groot Kerk is highly recommended. First started in 1792, the church was burnt down in 1799. The worshippers mobilized themselves and completed a new building in 1800. This second effort will last for 22 years before a new reverend arrived and spearheaded the construction of a new church, which was completed in 1823. This third building served the local community for 60 years before the present building went up. Notable features include a 4574 meters tall steeple and a chimney. It also goes without saying that it has a jaw-dropping exterior.

3. Dutch Reformed Church Hanover

  • Location: Northern Cape
  • Capacity: N/A
  • Founder: N/A
  • Built in: 1859 (replaced by a larger building in 1907)
  • Designer: Herman Kellenbach

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Well-manicured grounds, a glistening light-colored exterior, and a steeple that reaches into the sky are a few of the reasons that would make you love the Dutch Reformed Church located in Hanover, Northern Cape. Another attractive point about one of South Africa’s most beautiful churches is that it boasts of an organ that is 100 years old. It also boasts of a rich heritage, which has seen it declared a national monument.

4. NG Church Robertson

  • Location: Kerk Street, Robertson
  • Capacity: N/A
  • Founder: Dr. Robertson
  • Built in: 1853
  • Designer: John Gaisford

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Another Dutch Reformed Church that makes it to the list of the most beautiful churches in South Africa is the NG congregation located in Robertson. Following in the gothic tradition of several other Dutch Reformed churches, the NG congregation is located around orchards and vineyards in the modest town of Robertson. Without its own church for so long due to its small and rural nature, it took the courage of a local farm owner and his associate to set the church up. As fate would have it, the farm owner would sell the farm upon which the church was raised.

5. St. Georges Cathedral Cape Town

  • Location: Cape Town
  • Capacity: 1,000
  • Founder: N/A
  • Built in: 1901
  • Designer: Herbert Baker

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St Georges Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican diocese in Cape Town and the oldest cathedral in Southern Africa. Founded in 1901, it was designed by prominent English architect Sir Herbert Baker and followed the gothic architectural style. Some notable features include a tower with ten chiming bells, a stained glass featuring fine Gabriel Loire windows, and a crypt. There is also a fine rose window with a depiction of Jesus Christ and three different chapels. Entry into St. Georges is totally free, making it a worthwhile way to spend your day.

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6. Dutch Reformed Church George

  • Location: George, Western Cape
  • Capacity: N/A
  • Founder: Johan Stephen Simeon Ballot
  • Built in: 1842
  • Designer: N/A

Most Beautiful Churches in South Africa
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The foundation for this church was first laid in 1832, but it took 12 years to complete due to financial difficulties. Even upon completion, the congregation still had to rebuild the steeple following a heavy downpour. Thankfully, all these adversities are now in the past, and the Dutch Reformed Church George stands as one of the most beautiful in South Africa, with impressive Highwood ceilings and a historical old sundial near the main entrance. It also doesn’t hurt that it is set against the mountains, which enhances its imposing nature.

7. Holy Trinity Church, Belvidere

  • Location: Knysna, Eastern Cape
  • Capacity: 20
  • Founder: Thomas Henry Duthie
  • Built in: 1833 to 1857
  • Designer: Williams Butterfield
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Most Beautiful Churches in South Africa
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The Holy Trinity Church Belvidere is further proof that great things come in small packages. This small and quaint church can only sit about two dozen people; nevertheless, it is awesome. Built in the miniature Norman style of the 11th and 12th centuries, the church is entirely hewn out of sandstone, with the pulpit carved out of a single block. Stinkwood and Timberwood were utilized for the timber work while the bell was ferried all the way from England. The size of the church is just perfect for a family, which coincides with the vision of the founder, who built it as a place of worship for his family, friends, and servants.

8. St Michael and St. George Cathedral Grahamstown

  • Location: Makhanda, Eastern Cape
  • Capacity: 500
  • Founder: John Armstrong
  • Built in: 1824
  • Designer: George Gilbert Scott and John Oldrid Scott

Most Beautiful Churches in South Africa
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Another Anglican church that ranks amongst the most beautiful churches in South Africa is St. Michael and St. George Cathedral in Grahamstown. The planning for this grandeur building dates back to 1814, but it was only completed in 1879. Since then, it has undergone several extensive repairs, with a windows restoration taking place in 2017. The church boasts magnificent bells, a cathedral clock, and a spire, which is said to be the tallest in the country. Fancy a visit to St. Michael and St. George? Then, their doors are open to visitors Monday to Friday (9 am to 3 pm) and Saturday (9 am to 12 noon).

9. Hillsong Church

  • Location: Cape Town
  • Capacity: over a thousand
  • Founder: N/A
  • Built in: 2010
  • Designer: N/A

Most Beautiful Churches in South Africa
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While most of the notable beautiful churches in South Africa follow the centuries-old gothic style, Hillsong Campus in Cape Town is decidedly contemporary with a circular structure that comprises a glass exterior, some impressive towers, and an equally impressive dome. The auditorium attracts thousands of worshippers each week, which is ironic given that it was home to one of the largest nightclubs in Cape Town known as Dockside. Dockside existed for eight years before it was eventually taken over and redeveloped into the stunning place of worship that it is now.

10. St Mary’s Cathedral Johannesburg

  • Location: Johannesburg
  • Capacity: over 2000
  • Founder: Arthur Karney
  • Built in: 1887
  • Designer: Sir Hebert Baker and Frank Fleming

Most Beautiful Churches in South Africa
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Built with hard local whinstone, St Mary’s Cathedral is beautiful both inside and out. Inside, the church has three chapels and two statues of the Madonna. There is also a huge rood featuring Jesus on His cross, flanked by St. John, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and a Roman soldier. The famous rood hangs above the chancel steps and dominates the whole church, thanks to the life-size wood carving of the crucifixion. Asides from its physical beauty, St. Mary’s Cathedral occupies a pride of place as one of the few racially integrated churches in downtown Johannesburg in the 50s.

Recap of the 10 Most Beautiful Churches in South Africa

  1. Dutch Reformed Church Swellendam
  2. Dutch Reformed Church, Groot Kerk
  3. Dutch Reformed Church Hanover
  4. NG Church Robertson
  5. St. Georges Cathedral Cape Town
  6. Dutch Reformed Church George
  7. Holy Trinity Church, Belvidere
  8. St Michael and St. George Cathedral Grahamstown
  9. Hillsong Church
  10. St Mary’s Cathedral Johannesburg

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