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Huye Travel

Cathedral of Butare

With the wedding party gone, the expansive air on top of us felt radiant; like it was still singing songs of love. The pillows that the bride and groom knelt on stared back…

This was huge. And true to it, had red bricks. The road leading to it was red as well, made up of layers of fine particles of loam. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de la Sagesse (Our Lady of Wisdom) is the name. Built in memory of the life of Princess Astrid of Sweden, Queen consort of the Belgians, in the late 1930s, it is the largest religious structure in Rwanda. 

Ave de la Cathedral, the dusty road that offshoots from the Huye business district (known as Astrida after 1935) towards the cathedral looked like a scene pulled out of a wild west movie. It only needed a few horse-drawn carriages and pedestrians clad in indigo-dyed denim dungarees.

The day we got there, a wedding ceremony had just come to a close. The bride and groom were preparing to leave the grounds and the rest of the congregation was milling around sorting out what I assumed were logistics. There was less colour than I’d expected for a Rwandan wedding, but oh well, preconceived ideas.​

Entering through one of its many peripheral orifices, I was met by a fairly plain interior, save for a few modest wedding decorations adorning the sides. The atmosphere is tranquil and the size is impressive. The size, I reiterate, quite impressive. 

The cathedral is shaped like the letter T. Its main atrium stretches for what I’d estimate to be slightly shy of 150 metres horizontally, cutting through a spacious altar. 

It was evening when we got there. The sun’s pounding rays of heat had abated and were falling into the cathedral’s heavily dyed frosted window panes in such breathtaking strikes, I couldn’t help imagining what a moving experience Mass would be there. 

Even the tithe boxes, dug into the eighty-year-old brick, spoke of age. 

With the wedding party gone, the expansive air on top of us felt radiant; like it was still singing songs of love. The pillows that the bride and groom knelt on stared back, the sun’s rays hitting them right in the middle.

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