The Emmanuel Cathedral was built in 1904, and was situated in the tranquil
surrounds of Cathedral street, Durban. Today more than a hundred years later the
cathedral sits in Durban's over active inner city. The Emmanuel Cathedral was
the vision of Bishop Charles Constance Jolivet, who was the second Vicariate
Apostolic of Natal.
Bishop Jolivet commissioned the Durban architects Street-Wilson and Paton to design the cathedral back in 1903. Street Wilson, also designed the Port Shepstone hospital, where building commenced on March 25,1903. The architects were influenced by the Saint Joseph's Church at the upper end of West Street, which had been designed by a company of English architects, and was built in 1878. Materials from Saint Joseph's Church were utilized in the construction of the Emmanuel Cathedral. The Emmanuel Cathedral's stained glass windows were brought over from France, while the "stations of the cross" (a depiction of Christ's crucifixion) were carved from Italian marble, given as a gift from the wife of Napolean III, Empress Eugenie. They are a replica of the stations found in Sacre Coure de Montmarte in Paris. The high altar was donated by World veterans of the first world war, and is a reproduction of the Liverpool Cathedral's altar which was destroyed during the second world war.
The Cathedral opened its doors to the public in 1904 and after more than a century it still stands, rich in history and with a vibrant congregation. It was designed by Durban architect. The Emmanuel Cathedral building is considered a landmark in Durban and was at one stage a venue for intense political activity during the early and mid eighties. The late Archbishop Emeritus Denis Hurley, served at the Emmanuel Cathedral for 60 years of his life. Archbishop Hurley, who died aged 88, was a well known human rights activist, highly regarded for his contribution to the struggle against apartheid, as well as his concern for the plight of the poor and dispossessed, and his constant efforts in achieving a more just and peaceful society in South Africa.
The Emmanuel Cathedral is being renovated, and displays a fine example of the late Gothic Revival style of architecture. A combined use of red face brick and rough cast plaster were used on the exterior, all of which is covered by a roof of Marseilles tiles with wide overhanging eaves. The interior consists of a marble altar, cool marble columns and flooring, with a suspended web of Gothic vaults on the ceiling, and a special underfloor ventilation system. The Emmanuel Cathedral still holds daily services and welcomes all those who wish to join the congregation.
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