When you take the turnoff from the N2 onto the R406 near Caledon in the Western Cape, chances are you’re on your way to the peaceful little village of Greyton. Learn why to visit Genadendal Moravian mission village – the oldest in Africa – 5km from Greyton.
The first missionary here among the Khoi people was George Schmidt, who taught them to read and write. That was fine and dandy, until in 1742 he started baptising them as Christians. The Cape Dutch Reformed church threw up its hands in horror, claiming he wasn’t an ordained minister. Schmidt left in 1744 and it wasn’t until 1792 that Moravian missionaries named Schwinn, Kühnel and Marsveld came to Genadendal to continue his work.
At the far end of the village, under giant oak trees, is a cluster of ochre-yellow buildings around the church, which was built in 1891. Peek inside to see the white-painted wooden benches, a haven of simplicity compared to some places of worship that are overly ornate. The pipe organ is said to be the oldest in South Africa.
Visit the double-storey museum over the road from the church to get your ticket (for a small fee) to visit the museums. You also get an information brochure about the buildings in the church precinct, all of which were declared national monuments in 1980.
The main museum building was erected in 1838 as South Africa’s first teacher’s training college. Genadendal was also the site of South Africa’s very first kindergarten.
Today, the peacefulness of the church werf and its shady trees gives little hint that this was once an industrial town that made knives and furniture. The missionaries also did pioneering work in education, music, printing and architecture.
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