CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL, Zanzibar, in Tanzania, which marks the
site of one of the most notorious slave markets in East Africa, is
undergoing restoration work after a successful appeal was made for
The open-air slave market once had 15,000 slaves a year passing
through it. It closed in 1873 - the last in the world to be shut
down - and the site was bought by Anglo-Catholic missionaries from
the Universities' Mission to Central Africa, who began to build the
cathedral on it immediately.
The cathedral's altar was constructed over the exact spot where
the whipping post - to which the strongest slaves were tied and
whipped to prove their strength - once stood. Underneath the
cathedral there are bones of the slaves who did not survive; and
two of the holding chambers, where slaves waited to be sold, still
remain in the grounds. The whole site has a UNESCO World Heritage
Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim, and members of the cathedral's
small congregation were unable to cope with the cost of repairs
needed to the coral-stone structure, and the roof. But, after years
of lobbying, international recognition by the World Monuments Fund
(WMF), the European Union, and the governments of Tanzania and
Zanzibar in response to appeals from churches in the United States,
£1 million has been donated to begin the repair work.
Immediate work to secure the cracks was carried out earlier this
year, but the entire roof now needs replacing. The charity
Christian Engineers in Development is advising the project.
The WMF is also supporting the building of a heritage and
education centre on the site, to commemorate the abolition of
slavery. The centre will also highlight the continued existence of
trafficking and modern-day slavery.
A formal link has been established between Ely Cathedral and
Zanzibar to try and assist the restoration project. The Vice-Dean
and Canon Missioner of Ely Cathedral, the Revd Dr Alan Hargrave,
said: "The Christian population on Zanzibar is very much a
minority, and there has been tension in recent years and months
between the communities.
"It is hoped the new education centre will act as a bridge
between the communities. . . Zanzibar Cathedral has to raise
£30,000 a year as part of the project. In Ely, a stewardship
programme has been sending out about £4000 a year to help.
"It is a hugely important piece of work. Zanzibar was the
stepping stone for evangelism in East Africa; it is where David
Livingstone was based, and his house still stands. It was a very
important place for the slave trade, as almost all of those going
to the East passed through Zanzibar."