The ACK Mombasa Memorial Cathedral is no ordinary cathedral by any standard. First, it dates back to British colonial times. Secondly, it is built with coral stone and thirdly, and most striking, it looks like a mosque – literally!
This all-white cathedral with arches and a silver-coloured cupola dome is nothing but beautiful. Its builders initially eyed Freretown. Freretown, established in 1875 by former slaves from Malawi, sat on the mainland north of Mombasa.
But Britain had its eyes set on Mombasa. Mombasa had more potential as the future capital of its British East Africa protectorate. That is how the Mombasa Memorial Cathedral moved from the mainland to the island. But why build a cathedral this way?
Curiously resembling a Mosque, the Mombasa Memorial Cathedral builders intended to blend in with the predominantly Muslim community. You might say they went to Rome and did what the Romans do. They embraced the traditional Arab architecture of mosque construction.
Back then the spread of Christianity was not easy. Dr Ludwig Krapf, the German Lutheran who introduced modern Christianity to the Island found that out. He faced many difficulties making converts here so he had to move into the Coastal hinterland, among the Nyika. Here, Islam was less prevalent.
The Cathedral, established in 1903 as a memorial to Bishops Hannington and Parker and Reverend Wright, was an 1898 offshoot of the now divided Diocese of Eastern Equatorial Africa which at that point covered Uganda, Kenya and the then Tanganyika.
It is not clear why there being a sizeable number of missionaries who had arrived at the coastal town, it took longer to build the cathedral. Perhaps PJL Frankl’s book, ‘History in Africa’, sheds some light when he recalls how one of the administrators of the British East Africa Protectorate, James Hall, criticised the group for just enjoying the fleshpots of Mombasa while the single missionary ladies busied themselves with tennis, boating and with luck, the “hooking up of a decent hard-working administrator.”
At the time of its consecration on May 31st 1905, Mombasa Memorial Cathedral had cost about £4,400. So today we can celebrate over a century of Christianity and the day Arabs met the English in a magnificent piece of architecture.
The cathedral is located on Nkrumah Road, opposite DHL offices. Sunday hours of mass are as follows:
- Holy Communion service: 07:00 AM – 08:00 AM
- Swahili Service: 09:00 AM – 10:30 AM
- Teens Service: 09:00 AM & 11:00 AM
- Sunday School: 09:00 AM & 11:00 AM
- English Service: 11:00 AM – 01:00 PM
- Youth Service: 11:00 AM – 01:00 AM
- Evensong service: 05:30 PM – 06:30 PM
Pass by there while in Mombasa and catch one of their church services as it happened 116 years ago.