The architecture of its kind, Namirambe cathedral called St. Paul Cathedral is Uganda’s oldest cathedral for the church of Uganda (Anglican Community) dating to the time before the colonial government.
The St. Paul Cathedral is located on Namirembe Hill, approximately a 2km drive by road west of Kampala city center.
Though the headquarters of the Church of Uganda were moved from Namirambe hill to Nakasero at All Saints Cathedral. Still, St. Paul Cathedral Namirembe has outshone the pioneer to the extent of accommodating the residences of the archbishop.
The towering structure of the cathedral is among the few special features decorating Kampala. Namirembe is among the seven hills of Kampala with such a magnificent outlay and standing here you have that splendid view of the city.
The cathedral serves as the provincial cathedral of the church of Uganda and the diocesan cathedral for the Namirembe Diocese.
The backbone of St. Paul Cathedral Namirembe
In 1877, Shergold Smith and C. T. Wilson of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) arrived in Uganda (then the Buganda Kingdom) via the waves of Lake Victoria. Upon their arrival, they were welcomed by Kabaka Mutesa I.
This came next after the British explore Henry Morton Stanley met Ssekabaka Mwanga and explain the mythical Christianity news that prompted Ssekabaka Mutesa I to write a letter to Queen Victoria of England on April 14, 1875 letter which was also published in the Telegraph newspaper on November 15, 1875. The letter was requesting the Queen to send her men into the Buganda land to civilize and educate his people.
When Ssekabaka Mutesa died, his successor, Ssekabaka Mwanga from 1884 to 1897 rendered the hill of Namirembe to the Anglican society. A historian like Kevin Wards writes connecting this to the political wing where Buganda had to be closer to Anglican Church to keep the connection with the British Government.
Though Islam was the pioneer of religion in Buganda, Anglican, and Catholic societies took a scoop influence in the Kingdom matters. Mastermind of Mutesa accepted foreign religions to flourish but accepted none as a person causing a moment of controversy (religious wars).
Namirembe Cathedral Account
The first grass-thatched church building was constructed in 1890 seating the capacity of 800 people. It was abandoned in 1891 because it was located in the swampy area at the foothills of the hill and a bigger structure was needed to accommodate the growing number of converts.
The second church was built completed in 1892, with enough seating capacity of 3,000. In 1894 a strong wind of the thunderstorm ruined the roof and the structure.
The third church building was constructed in 1894 having a seating capacity of about 4,000. The local traditional material was used, and it was abandoned in the 1900s due to fear that it will be destroyed by termites.
By 1904, the fourth cathedral was constructed, this time with earthen bricks and a thatched roof. At the grand opening of this new cathedral, over 10,000 believers were believed to be in attendance on the Tuesday 21 June 1904 among the congregation was Kabaka Daudi Chwa II, who was 7 years by then. Also in 1910, a fire gutted the roof of the cathedral and destroyed the building.
The existing structure of St. Paul Cathedral was constructed between 1915 and completed in 1919 using earthen bricks and earthen roof tiles.
The cathedral with the combination of efforts, during the construction of the cathedral Kabaka Daudi Chwa had to send his page boys and also present to motivate workers. The Bunyoro kingdom also joined the efforts that made the leather upholstery.
The Bishop’s throne and the splendid pulpit were made by students of Kings College Budo, the choir stalls were made by schools from Iganga and Mityana and the alter table, reredos, and credence tables were made by Maseno High School from Kisumu.
The eagle lectern was given by the government in memory of Uganda who died in World War I. The diamond-paned stained glass windows were provided by Messrs Isherwoods of Nairobi at a cost of £1,524 then rates.