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*All distances listed are as the crow flies, and not actual travel distances.
The Regina Mundi Church in Rockwell, Soweto is the largest Roman Catholic Church in the country and a past beacon of light to apartheid activists who would shelter and meet here during times of strife. The church was built in 1962 and named Regina Mundi, Latin for Queen of the World, in reference to the Virgin Mary. During the 1976 Soweto uprising, bullets were fired at fleeing students as they made their way into the church and the pockmarks created by the bullets can still be seen today.
Fairly staid in its architecture, the size of the interior is what impresses with beautiful stained glass windows later added in an attempt to beautify the structure. The windows were a gift from the First Lady of Poland at the time, Jolanta Kwaśniewska. A black Madonna and child painting takes centre stage, a 1973 original by Larry Scully and issued to raise funds for black education. The painting was gifted to the church by a wealthy benefactor.
The Regina Mundi Church is capable of hosting thousands of worshippers and Roman Catholics travel from all parts of the country to appreciate its history and to attend a sermon here. Well-known personalities have visited the church too and they include Bill and Hilary Clinton who created a stir by partaking in Holy Communion despite being non-Catholics. Michelle Obama visited the church during her 2011 African tour where she addressed the Young African Women Leaders Forum.
Outside is a small garden adjoining Tokoza Park that contains a memorial and peace pole donated by the Japanese Youth Christian Movement to commemorate victims of the Soweto uprising.
The 30th November is Regina Mundi Day, officially declared by Nelson Mandela in 1997.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.