Site Menu

Home About us History
Brief History of the ACK Mombasa Memorial Cathedral PDF Print E-mail

Mombasa was a predominantly Muslim town long before the arrival of Vasco-da-Gama in 1498. During the next two hundred or so years that the Portuguese Christians occupied this part of the sea-route from Europe to India, there were churches in Mombasa and elsewhere, but none has endured.

Later in 1844, when Ludwig Krapf, a German Lutheran, who was employed by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) based in London, arrived in Mombasa, he brought with him modern Christianity in this town which was hitherto wholly Mohammedan.

Krapf had difficulty in making any converts on the Island and had therefore to move into the Costal hinterland, among the Nyika, where Islam was less evident and was therefore more hopeful of success. With remarkable perspicacity, he wrote: “Christianity and civilization ever go hand-in-hand… A black Bishop and black Clergy (of the Protestant Church) may, here long become a necessity in the civilization of Africa”

The diary of one, Emery, who had lived in Mombasa for almost two years in the early 1820’s, gives the first eye witness account of Mombasa since the Portuguese – Christian occupation. The CMS was born out of Evangelical Revival and founded in 1799 as an independent society within the Church of England.

In England, with the attention drawn to the East African Slave Trade, a settlement of liberated slaves was established on the mainland north of Mombasa Island in 1875, and a Church, Emmanuel Church – Frere Town, was built on the first parcel of land in central Swahili land to be owned by the European Christians. There was still no Church in the Island.

This being the zenith of the British Imperial power, in the capital of almost every major British overseas possession, it was the policy of the secretariat and the club to have a Church of England Cathedral.

In 1878, Mombasa was in the Episcopal care of the Bishop of Mauritius, the Bishop P. S. Royston. In September 1878, the Bishop went from Frere Town to Mombasa Island to call on the Liwali, the Governor of Mombasa, (i.e. the representative of the Busa’idi Sultan resident in Zanzibar) who was Ali bin Nasir.

The Vast Diocese of Eastern Equatorial Africa, which included Mombasa, was constituted in 1884 under the aegis of the Protestant – including CMS, in friendly competition, as it were, with the Diocese of Zanzibar to the South, which was under the aegis of the Anglo-Catholic Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA).

This was part of a world wide expansion of the Anglican Communion, which, until the early 19th Century, had been confined to the British Isles and latter to parts of the Eastern Sea Board of North America.

James Hannington sailed from England on 5th November as the first Bishop of the Diocese. Hannington held an ordination in Frere Town Church (Emmanuel) on 31st May 1885, but later that year he was killed while passing through Busoga. He remains were later transferred to Namirembe in Buganda.

On May 24th 1887, Sayyid Bargash bin Said al Busa’idi, the ruler of the Busa’idi Sultanate domiciled in Zanzibar town and having Mombasa within its dominions, conceded to the newly established Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC) all the powers and authority to which he is entitled – the mainland in the Mrima, and in all his territories and dependencies from Wanga to Kipini inclusive, also the Island embraced in such territory including the Island of Mombasa; the whole administration of which he concedes to and places in their hands to be contained in his Highness’ name and under his flag.

Sayyid Bargash died in Zanzibar on 27th March, 1888. Mr. Price. The Reverend William Salter Price (1825 to 1911) was employed by the CMS and served three terms of duty in Mombasa between 1875 and 1876, 1881 to 1882 and …

In 1861, Charles Frederick Mackenzi had been consecrated Bishop of the Mission to the tribes dwelling in the neighborhood of the Lake Nyasa and the River Shire. Mrima: The East African Cost from Vanga (Wanga) to the mouth of River Ruvuma, by then it was not the Union flag but the red flag of the Busa’idi Sultans resident in Zanzibar which flew over Mombasa Island (and the rest of the protectorate) until the early 1960’s.

The British, taking no chances, obtained confirmation of the concession from the new Busa’idi, Sayyid Khalifa. Bishop Alfred Tucker, not long after his arrival in Mombasa in 1888, gave thought to the provision of a Church for the English members of his community. He wrote: “the mention of Mombasa reminds me that before very long a question will arise as to ministry to the English community there. This community is of cause rapidly increasing. We cannot expect them to come over to Frere town to our Mission Services for any length of time.”

I understand very well that it’s not part of the work of CMS to provide such a Ministry as we long be called for in Mombasa for this English community. Still I feel the committee would like to know from one on the spot all the facts of the case so that they may be better able to decide wisely in this matter in which they are directly concerned. The question has suggested itself to me as to whether it might not after all be better to build our Church (the Memorial Church) at Mombasa rather than at Frere town.