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Colonial German church celebrates 100 years in Namibia

The Local · 15 Oct 2010, 08:38

Published: 15 Oct 2010 08:38 GMT+02:00

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Church bells ring out exactly at noon in the heart of Namibia's sleepy capital Windhoek, still precise 100 years after the church was built as an emblem of Imperial Germany's colonial reach.

"It is like being at home. It is wonderful to hear these beautiful bells here in Namibia, nearly 10,000 kilometres away from Germany," said tourist Annelise Schmieder from Stuttgart.

"I am thrilled that I could see the Christuskirche" said Schmieder, standing on the steps of the sandstone Church of Christ and glancing up at the 42-metre tower on a hill overlooking the city.

The Lutheran church was consecrated on October 16, 1910 after a tumultuous period of construction that mirrored the upheaval of Imperial Germany's conquest of a land then known as South West Africa.

Germany staked its claim to the region in 1884 and the site for a Protestant church was allocated 14 years later. Colonial government architect Gottlieb Redecker drew the building plans in 1901.

But construction was delayed by the tumult that accompanied colonisation, with the indigenous Herero and Nama people resisting for years in a bloody conflict that ended only with Germany's notorious "extermination order."

Tens of thousands of people were killed and only a fraction of the Herero and Nama populations had survived when the campaign ended in 1907.

The church rose with Germany's victory, with most of the materials shipped from Europe down the Atlantic and then transported by a narrow gauge rail link from the small port of Swakopmund over the 370 kilometres to Windhoek.

Fitted into the steeple were three bronze bells cast by Franz Schilling in Apolda, Germany.

Then-emperor Wilhelm II donated three stained glass windows to decorate the chancel of the 400-seat church, which is laid out like a basilica with an aisle and a gallery on the northern side.

The west-facing entrance with six columns is built of Carrara marble imported from Italy.

Empress Auguste Victoria donated the altar Bible, now kept in the church office for safety.

The organ was built by the company Walker in Ludwigsburg, Germany. The Windhoek town council donated the tower clock.

The original altarpiece is a copy of "The Resurrection of Lazarus," by baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens.

The original painting by the Flemish master was destroyed by fire in Berlin in 1945, meaning Windhoek's is now the most authentic replica.

Building expenses eventually came to 360,000 marks, double the initial estimate and a fortune at the time.

Over the years, a new organ was built by a South African company and the stained glass windows were renovated.

A German art expert touring Namibia in 1998 noticed the new windows were accidentally fitted backwards during construction, with the glass facing the wrong way. It removed between 1999 and 2000, repaired and refitted correctly.

Story continues below…

A special church service will be held Sunday to commemorate the centenary for what in modern Namibia is a major landmark and a repository of history and language for the 30,000 people of German descent in the country, whose official language is now English.

And what will the next 100 years bring?

"The German language will remain anchored in Namibia and in our congregation," said Bishop Erich Hertel.

"Our priority as a church is not to stick to one language, but to distribute the message of God," he told AFP.

"We are grateful that the Lord provides us with new challenges, even if that means to accept another language. The German Lutheran congregations in South Africa found solutions to this, we in Namibia would have to find our own."


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:31 October 15, 2010 by chrishale53
This story is DISGUSTING.

If you don't understand why then I suggest you read 'The Kaiser's Holocaust' by David Olusoga and Casper Erichsen.

You don't even mention what the authors of this book have uncovered. Shame on you.

It will be very difficult to look at your web site again.
13:00 October 15, 2010 by DinhoPilot

Dude can you be more specific?

Me no understand your trauma? lol
13:44 October 15, 2010 by StephenTTDuffy
Oh come on! It was a nice little story about how a grand old German church was built far from home, not some debate about whether the Nazi holocaust against the Jews was practiced in Namibia 30 years earlier on the Hereo. If you go to Namibia you will see how tollerant and forgiving the indigenous population is towards all the whites (German, English, Afrikanner) who choose to remain and call themselves Namibians too. "Get over it" Chris Hale! Should Americans weap into their coffee each time the Frauenkirche is mentioned (re. bombing of Dresden)?
14:06 October 15, 2010 by William Thirteen
'But construction was delayed by the tumult that accompanied colonisation, with the indigenous Herero and Nama people resisting for years in a bloody conflict that ended only with Germany's notorious "extermination order."

Tens of thousands of people were killed and only a fraction of the Herero and Nama populations had survived when the campaign ended in 1907.'

well i hope the natives have apologized for delaying the construction of God's house by not dying faster...
14:52 October 15, 2010 by HANNIBAL-BARCA
If words have a consistent meaning has defined by recorded and commonly accepted practice, as well of course the context of use, then the building referenced in the article should not be called a Church. The aforementioned building exist solely as a result of genocide. While objective thinkers will naturally question Man's invoking the word of God as ostensibly delusional, if taken at nominal value the so called practitioners of the faith live in stark contradiction to the word of the Bible, such that it is.

The current situation in Namibia, as it has been since the Europeans invaded the Continent commonly called Africa, is to the detriment of the Native Population. Over half of Namibians live below the internationally recognized porverty line. Child labor and H.I.V. are endemic to the continued suffering of the Native Population.

Typically the white minority resides at the top of the economic rung in this racist farce of a Nation, token Native Leaders aside.

Of course it is difficult for the invader to see himself as anything other than a liberator. Despite this aberration in the history in the civilization of Man, the course will revert to the mean.
15:57 October 15, 2010 by michael4096
@Hannibal - nice sentiments - unfortunately, the truth is, most of the 19th C slaughter was done in the name of the lord by god fearing christians - many existing churches were built in celebration

It is bad history to judge people of the past by today's standards. Far better to learn from it - which we don't appear to be doing particularly well
17:00 October 15, 2010 by HANNIBAL-BARCA

While I'm not certain why you felt inclined to address me personally, I will respond succintly. The People which committed the genocide in question were "Christians" in the same way that Brass, Copper or other base elements are passed amongst the naive as Gold.

I reiterate, Africa has only suffered, exponentially, since the European has invaded and remains on the Continent.
01:05 October 16, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I, too, found this little story disturbing. It's a paean to German colonialism, imperialism and genocide. It could have been a cautionary tale instead of a celebration of slaughter in the name of Jesus and Germany. It seems to me that the Bishop still hasn't figured out what the message of God really is, assuming there is a message of God. And we wonder why we're hated throughout the African continent? How about a nice little nostalgia piece on apartheid next?
08:03 October 16, 2010 by StephenTTDuffy
I have returned to this article to see if any debate has emerged. It hasnt.

To ...

Mr Hannibal - I would state that Africa has suffered at the hands of dictators, indigenous dictators, AFTER colonialisation, as much, if not MORE, than during the colonial time. Bad government is not a race thing. Look at Congo, for Christ sake.

To ...

Mr/Ms Prufock - 'We" are not hated throughout Africa. No more than Muslims are hated in Europe. Do you hate your Turkish neighbours? I dont?

And to most of the other commentators .... who seem to be hooked on blaiming Christians for the wrongs of colonialism ... the reference to the church being finished after the fighting against the Herero is not a reference to it being a monument to the glory of the German "protection' forces (and yes, that was their official title!) There are monuments/statues in Namibia (still standing today, 20 years after the end of white rule, I should add,) to that. It is just a reference to the economic distruption that occured during the fighting, which brought construction to a temporary halt.

To everyone reading this ... go to Namibia. Have a look. Experience the place. Meet the local people. Your opinion(s) may then change. To those who have already been ... I would be interested to know what you actually do think of the staute in Swakopmund to the German dead. To those who havent ... there is a monument to the Namibian dead in the pocket of all Namibians. Its the Namibian dollar. Google its image and see.
10:06 October 16, 2010 by HANNIBAL-BARCA

Your looking debate, intelligent debate perhaps? May I suggest that you offer a credible argument first. For you to even hint that todays Dictators on the Continent are or have caused worse suffering than the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, leading to outright European Colonization is a clear demonstration of your ignorance of the Historical Facts.

It serves no purpose to "debate" someone such as yourself, who is incapable of an objective analysis of the empirical data, much less abstract data.
00:37 October 17, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Mr. Duffy --

You sabotage your argument by stating, "we" are not hated throughout Africa. No more than Muslims are hated in Europe."

If you've read a paper lately, or even this site, you should know that Muslims are indeed hated in Europe. I'm not saying that it's justified. I'm just saying that it is the prevailing mood these days. The anti-colonial backlash throughout the African continent is pandemic. "We" may be tolerated in some places, but we are not liked. There is a reason for that.
02:44 October 17, 2010 by StephenTTDuffy

My understanding is that as soon as an individual in a chat forum resorts to comments like: "It serves no purpose to "debate" someone such as yourself", they are conceeding the argument.

Thankyou. Bye bye.

As to Mr Prufrock. I think you read too much Bildzeitung. If the world cup was still on, Eurovision, or even the return of the "deadly" Swine / Bird / or whatever-is-next-flu, the media would have something else to talk about, and this topic would not be a topic. But hey, maybe youre right. Maybe Europe is racist. But I still refute that whites are hated in Africa as you state. Have you lived there? I have.
12:23 October 17, 2010 by HANNIBAL-BARCA

Your understanding is poor, therefore your argument suffers even more.

Again, if you had put forth a credible argument to which I could have cognitively responded, then I would have.

Unfortunately, your argument only demonstrates your learned intellectual racism. This is the type of thinking promulgated in the schools so as to instill uniformity in thought and subsequent action. This type of mass herd racist psychology provides the herd with false comfort in believing they are not the racist. You point to the so called "extremist" which in fact are only a crystallization of what you your hold dear in your heart, that you are innately superior to others, though you are moral and tolerant of their right to existence.

Maybe for those who have not correctly diagnosed the mental illness from which you, and those who believe popular history, suffer, they may be inclined to "debate" with your ilk naively assuming you to be reasonable.

However, for those of your ilk to become reasonable would require an intellectual re-birth. This is beyond the spiritual fortitude of many people and against the wishes of those in power.

For someone such as myself to foolishly try to argue such an asinine argument as the one which you put forth is an affront to the irreplaceable value of time.

So you may imprudently choose to continue to ignore or otherwise deny objective reality, however, it is no less fact.
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