Regina Mundi Church — Regina Mundi means “Queen of the World” in Latin — was built in 1964 and is the largest Roman Catholic Church in South Africa. The church has 2,000 seats and can accommodate up to 5,000 people in total.
Regina Mundi looks rather unobtrusive from the outside, despite its considerable size. But inside, the church’s history is palpable. Rows and rows of simple wooden pews sit beneath a wide triangular roof and a large but simple crucifix hangs in the pulpit.
Most striking are the long, rectangular stained glass windows stretching along the side of the church portraying Nelson Mandela, Hector Pieterson, and other prominent figures and events in the struggle against apartheid in Soweto. Regina Mundi also has a huge stained glass work portraying the annunciation, created by artist Jolanta Kwasaniewska in 1998.
After it was built Regina Mundi became a refuge for anti-apartheid activists and served a particularly prominent role in the Soweto Uprising on 16 June 1976. During the uprising students fled into the church for safety, and were followed inside by police, who shot live ammunition in the church and injured many activists. Today the church still bears the scars of those shootings as bullet holes on the inside and outside of the church are left as a reminder of the horrors of apartheid.
Regina Mundi holds mass every day (7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Sunday, 8:00 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 6:00 p.m. every first Friday) but is also open to tourists every day of the week. Caretaker and tour guide Danny Dube, who is been a Regina Mundi parishioner for decades and experienced the violence in 1976, is usually on hand to provide tours and anecdotes about the history of the church. Regina Mundi also has a small museum upstairs with artwork, photographs, and memorabilia from the anti-apartheid struggle, as well as a peaceful memorial garden outside.
Admission to Regina Mundi is R20 and additional donations toward the upkeep and maintenance of the church are welcome.
Regina Mundi Church is at No. 1 149 Khumalo Street, Rockville, Soweto. Call 011-986-2546.