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Cape Town Sights

Church Square

  • Neighborhood/Street

Fodor's Review

Church Square bore witness to much of Cape Town's dark history. On the square's northern end is the former

An inconspicuous concrete plaque along Spin Street's median is all that's left of the Slave Tree, an enormous Canadian pine under which slaves were reportedly auctioned off. A section of the tree is on display at the District Six Museum.

Slave Lodge. Built in 1679 by the Dutch East India Company to house slaves, convicts, and lunatics, it

also housed the supreme court from 1815 to 1914. The lodge now holds a museum with a sobering account of slavery in the Cape, as well as excellent and evocative temporary exhibits that tend to examine apartheid and racism. 49 Wale St., Cape Town Central, Cape Town, 8000. 021/460–8242. R15. Weekdays 10–4:30, Sat. 10–1.

Across from the slave tree on the square's eastern end is the entrance to the Gothic-style Groote Kerk. One of South Africa's most famous churches, the Groote Kerk (Great Church) was built in 1841 on the site of an earlier Dutch Reformed church dating from 1704. The adjoining clock tower is all that remains of that earlier building. Among the building's interesting features are the enclosed pews, each with its own door—prominent families would buy these so they wouldn't have to pray with the masses. The enormous pulpit is the joint work of famous sculptor Anton Anreith and carpenter Jan Jacob Graaff. The lions supporting it are carved from local stinkwood; the upper portion is Burmese teak. The organ, with nearly 6,000 pipes, is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Approximately 200 people are buried beneath the Batavian soapstone floor, including eight governors. There are free guided tours on request. Parliament St., Cape Town Central, Cape Town, 8000. 021/422–0569. Free. Weekdays 10–2; services Sun. at 10 and 7.

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