St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Dar es Salaam

Featured Image Source: ru:User:Digr, Under Creative Commons,

The St. Joseph’s Cathedral is the main Roman Catholic cathedral in Dar es Salaam. The church sits on the banks of the natural harbour of Dar es Salaam in the CBD. The cathedral sits on Sokoine Drive and is enclosed by Bridge Street, Zanaki Street and Mansfield Street.

The church was built by German missionaries when Tanzanian was a German colony. Construction started in 1897 and finished in 1902. The building is clearly german in style and form. The church was consecrated as a Catholic church in 1905 and is the seat of the archdiocese for Dar es Salaam, (source). It is the seat of the Archbishop, currently Archbishop Polycarp Pengo, (source).

The church is built in a German Gothic style. This can be seen in its use of stained glass windows, pointed arches and its wide nave. Another feature of the German Gothic style is that its central nave and side naves are a similar height. Although this church was built long after the heyday of gothic architecture it still follows the basic principals of gothic architecture, though it uses more modern building techniques, (source).

The building has one tower on the entrance’s north-east side. The entrance is formed by three pointed arch doorways, each with a cross pinnacle. The doors are set back in these pointed archways. Above the entrance, we find one central stained glass rose window, with on each side a thin arched window. The roof of the entrance has 11 indents that increase in height to match the height of the roof. The pinnacle of the roof is too a cross.

The tower has a thin 8 sided pointed roof. Its roof is roofed in grey tiles unlike the rest of the roofs which are tiled in a much more common red roof tiles. The tower to has a cross at its pinnacle. An interesting detail is that the crosses get more detailed and thinner the higher on the building’s facade they are places, with the cross on the tower being the most embellished. The tower also serves as a ventilation system having open hatched windows for air to flow through and cool the building.

Once inside the church one’s eye is immediately drawn to the stained glass windows behind the altar. Which are stained in bright colours with traditional European motifs depicting various biblical scenes. The interior is painted in 3 main colours, namely yellow for the walls, grey for columns and as an accent colour and white for the ceiling. The side naves are made up of three barreled archways, each nave having a stained glass rose. The roof is a classical ribbed vault structure, (source).

The floor is tiled in natural stone and the building is furnished with wooden church benches. Over the entrance stands the church Organ.

The St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a great example of German Gothic architecture in Tanzania and is an important site for worship amongst Dar er Salaam’s Christians.


Africantourer. (n.d.). St Josephs Metropolitan Cathedral. Retrieved May 8, 2018
Catholic-hierarchy. (n.d.). Archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. Retrieved May 8, 2018 (n.d.). German Gothic Architecture. Retrieved May 8, 2018
Visual-Arts-Cork. (n.d.). German Gothic Art (c.1200-1450). Retrieved May 8, 2018
Wikipedia. (n.d.). St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Dar es Salaam. Retrieved May 8, 2018
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Rib vault. Retrieved May 8, 2018

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