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In between the B3 highway and the cliff of the great rift valley sits the Mai Mahiu Catholic Church. The church dates from 1942 when Italian POW were forced to build the road to Naivasha. Along the road, the British allowed the Italians to build a Catholic Church to practice their faith. And what they built is one of the smallest and most beautiful churches not only in Kenya but in the world.
The church is very small, it is around 4.5mx 2.5m, having only one small isle with 3 small wooden benches on each side and an altar at the end. On each wall there are two small stain glass windows filled with small circular pieces of coloured glass.
The painting on the back wall shows a nativity scene, with baby Jesus laying in the manger. The painting was likely painted by Navitatis NDJC around 1943. Just below the roof, there is a band with inscriptions and small paintings show different biblical events. The inscriptions read, Venite Ad Memone (Come to me my people), Haec Est Victoria Quae Vincit Mundum Fides Mustra (This is the victory that has won the world by our faith), Benedicite Coeli Domino Benedicite (Blessed be the sky and blessed again) and Universa Germinatia In Terra Domino (everything will germinate in the sky and also on the earth). They help to show what the POW were feeling when they were building this church, hopefulness for a better tomorrow and their belief of the power of their faith.
When one walks the towards the building one can see the detail given to the facade. The small stone sculptures that adorn the entrance and the small square ones on either side of the door. The three steps that lead to the church are said to represent the holy trinity. The roof is made from red clay tiles, although they are no longer the original ones. Attached to the church is a small steeple or tower whose top third has a dark earthy red colour to it.
Later on a second tower and wall around the church was added in the same almost Venetian style as the first tower. The top third of this tower, like the first is red in colour and made from small bricks. Under this, the tower is built from stone and mortar. Of the two lower thirds one uses smooth rocks that line up with the mortar and the bottom third the rocks have a much rougher finish, a relatively common style in Kenya.
The original front stone facade is neat with the mortar lying just behind the stone level. The sides are less neat but use smooth stone and a level mortar. The church has five sides to it and three doors. The church is open to anyone who wants to visit or pray and is open from 6 am till 5 pm every day.
The church is also referred to as the Travelers’Chapel and locally as the Maikiti mosque. The building is currently financed by the Italian embassy, the Kenyan government and donations and private benefactors.
The building was built by the POW’s during there brakes from building the road. Several died during the building process and a small mausoleum has been erected in their honour.
It is one of the beautiful and interesting churches in Kenyan with a history that is emblematic of Kenya’s history, one of faith during tough times.