Top of the Hill: Rubaga Cathedral

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Top of the Hill: Rubaga Cathedral

While tourists visiting Kampala often visit Mengo Hill the church on neighbouring Rubaga Hill shouldn’t be ignored.  This majestic church was built between 1917 and 1925 when European missionaries were spreading throughout pre-independence Uganda and the structure was meant to make a statement.

The current church construction was started in 1914 but it was previously the seat of the Catholic missionaries, the White Fathers in 1883. Before that, the Kabaka (king) of Buganda had a palace on the spot.

In the early 1900’s it was believed to be important to, �?dominate’ the hill as the Protestant �?rivals’ had dominated  Namirembe Hill to the northeast. It is not a coincidence that for generations, many of the residents of Rubaga have continued to be adherents to the Catholic faith.

From the centre of Kampala, St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Rubaga can clearly identified as one of the major hills that made up the original �?seven hills’ of the city.  From afar, it looks like a beautiful old church with a sense of history which is what attracts visitors who want to find out what lies behind those old walls. Visitors are then rewarded with a breathtaking view of the �?other side’ of Rubaga.

The church stands on one of the best vantage points of the city and this is not lost on many people, especially city authorities. During a recent meeting the new Minister for Tourism, Maria Mutagamba, said that the government is already implementing plans to revamp sites, such as Rubaga, in the city.

While Catholics still actively use it as a place of worship, and every papal visit to the city (Pope Paul VI in 1969 and Pope John Paul II in 1993) has made a stop there, there are many who are welcomed to just tour the grounds and take pictures. If you are visiting Kampala and looking for some great shots you won’t want to miss Rubaga.

Strolling across the neatly kempt lawns you can see Kisekka Market right in the foreground – marked out by hundreds of tin roofs. From this vantage point the entire city looks green and you’ll wonder where all of those trees are in the centre of Kampala!

In addition to the view, many of those who visit want to get a glimpse of Ugandan history as well. It’s possible to visit the remains of the first African Catholic Archbishop of Kampala, Joseph Kiwanuka along with other tombstones that mark the graves of a number of church fathers who have led the Catholic Church in Uganda over the decades.

On Sundays, mass is held at 7am and 9am in English and the general service, conducted in Luganda is at 10am and 5pm.

Getting to the Cathedral is easy. Take a taxi from the New Park Gazette (previously taxis were in the new taxi park but they have been shifted to the Kisenyi Bus Terminal). It will cost you about 1,000 UGX to the drop off at Mutesa Road and take about 10 minutes. A boda trip from the centre will cost about 4,000 UGX. There are no entry fees but visitors should bear in mind that it is used as a house of worship so dress conservatively and maintain low voices.

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