A little caching expedition took me to St Katharine Church in Uitenhage the other day. The foundation stone, which cannot be found today, was laid in 1867 and it is from this date that the anniversaries are counted, although the building (as in construction) only began in 1869. It was completed in 1875 after many financial constraints and problems and dedicated that same year by Rev. William Llewellyn. It was named by him after St. Katharine, an eighth century Egyptian Princess who was beautiful and wise. In 1894 the chancel was added and the original galvanized iron roof was replaced by the slate roof in 1966. The church is built in a simple Gothic architectural style with stones quarried from the vicinity of the farm “Hillwacht” and transported by ox-wagon to this site where Muslim stone masons built the original structure.
So who was St Katharine?
From earliest childhood she was known for her beauty and great intellect, stimulated by all the resources in her parents’ kingdom and beyond. Orphaned by 14 years of age she became queen and to the dismay of the elders found no suitable person to marry. A hermit learned in a dream that the King who should be Lord of her heart was to be the Blessed Virgin’s Son and after he showed her their picture, Katharine could think of no other. In a dream the Lord turned her away as not being fair enough for Him and after that Katharine could not rest until she had become a Christian and was baptised. Again in a dream, the Lord betrothed Himself to her and she was so filled with faith and fortitude that she confronted the cruel Maximin of Italy who was ravaging all the Christians in Egypt. So convincing was her appeal at the assembly he convened to trap her, that many were converted and believed that Christ was Lord and God. This so enraged Maximin that he ordered further massacres of Christians and had Katharine tortured, wounded and thrown in a dungeon. Even there, the captive princess continued to talk of God and converted Maximin’s own wife and chief captain. Finally as she was chained between 4 wheels that were to tear her body, fire came down from heaven and broke the wheels apart. While others were hurt by flying fragments, Katharine was unharmed. Maximin ordered her to be taken outside the city of Alexandria where she was beheaded with a sword. Her body was taken to Mount Sinai where a monastery named after St Katharine may be found. Katharine became a great Virgin Patron, her Saint’s Day is November 25th. - From the listing of The Story of St Katharine