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Rhenish Mission Church

Swakopmund | Namibia

The Rhenish Mission Church in Keetmanshoop was rebuilt by members of the Nama community after the previous building was washed away by the Aub River in 1890, under the supervision of the Rev. Tobias Fenchel. It was consecrated on 8th May 1895. The original building was constructed on shallow ground by Fenchel. He was not aware the site was actually a dry river bed until heavy flooding. The wooden pulpit and the altar Bible were later recovered downstream; a miracle!

This act of God inspired the Nama Captain Tseib to donate land to the Rhenish Mission Society to erect a stone church. Building materials were transported from Luderitz by ox-wagon and the Rev. Tobias Fenchel who supervised the building of the first church, was once again in charge, (no doubt elated that a site on higher ground had been chosen!)

As with many other churches, Fenchel chose the church in his home town of Gambach in Germany as an example. The Nama members of his congregation provided the workforce and the church was consecrated on 8th May 1895. It could hold 1,000 worshippers, it still stands today, and is the oldest building in Keetmanshoop.

But in 1930, the European community in Keetmanshoop decided to break away from their African neighbours and build there own church. The original Rhenish Mission church was used only by the African members of the town, and until 1961. It then fell into a period of rot and decay until 1978, when it was converted into a museum. It was fully restored in 1985 by the Keetmanshoop Municipality, who then let it from the Rhenish Mission Society.

Even today, the church cuts a dash in the town. Its 30m square stone tower narrows to an elegant octagonal peaked tip and together with solid stone walls, bowed wooden ceiling and pulpit, it remains a centre piece of Keetmanshoop history. This architectural design keeps the inside of the church cool inside in summer and is an attractive focal point for the town.

The Rhenish Mission Church was proclaimed a national monument on 9th June 1978.

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