A Trip To The Oldest Anglican Cathedral In Nigeria

Standing elegantly at the center of the ever-busy Central Business District (CBD) in Marina, Lagos, is the oldest Anglican Cathedral in Nigeria. The Cathedral Church of Christ, which still serves as the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Lagos, remains one of the 19th-century architectural masterpieces that have stood the test of time.

This building is well-preserved and remains almost unchanged, but with recent modern additions. Its tastefully finished exterior is complete with exquisite interior finishing. It has beautifully crafted benches, ceilings, and marble floors, among others. It also houses the most significant and oldest organs in Nigeria, built-in 1932 by German organ builders Oberlinger Orgelbau, and remodeled (custom rebuilt) by the English firm Harrison & Harrison in 1966. However, the Church dedicated a new 64-stop, four-manual pipe organ on May 2, 2010.

History of the Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of Christ dates back to 1867, when the foundation stone of the Church was laid by the then Colonial Administrator of Lagos, J.H. Glover, on March 29. He did this in the first churchwardens, Henry Doherty and John Ogunbunmi, and other worshipers. It took additional 2 years for the Church to be completed.

In the year 1096, there was a resolution to create the Anglican Province of West Africa. Later that year, the resolution was approved, and a search commenced for where the Cathedral would be located. The proposal for the Cathedral to be the Church was made in 1913, but it wasn’t until 1921 that its status was raised to a Pro-Cathedral. This, of course, needed a new and more significant building (the current one), whose construction began in earnest in 1924.

Its Norman Gothic design makes it stand out in not simply Lagos, but in Nigeria in general. The renowned architect, Bagan Benjamin, did an excellent job here. The foundation stone came from England (Newcastle-On-Tyne, to be precise). King Edward VIII layered it (then Prince of Wales) on April 21, 1925. The building was completed in 1946.

The Church has served as the Archbishop of the Province of West Africa, The Archbishop and Primate of all Nigeria, and the Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos. As of today, it is the Cathedral of the Anglican Bishop of Lagos.

This Church has the oldest Choral group in Nigeria

The choir of the Christ Cathedral Church is the oldest in Nigeria. Reverend Robert A. Coker launched the Cathedral Choir in 1895. The reverend, an organist, had to understudy church choirs in England before creating one in the Cathedral Church. On November 23, 1918, Thomas Ekundayo Phillips was appointed the first choir leader of the Cathedral. His offspring would serve the Cathedral as Choir leaders over successive generations.

The Cathedral Choir is considered one of the best in Nigeria, and indeed, across West Africa. As the premier choral group in Nigeria, it is instrumental in charting a course for others to follow. It has gone through different stages to become what it is now. The choir still maintains its standards, as was laid down by Reverend Robert A. Coker, who wanted it to be the best on the continent. Its ethics, tradition, on Church liturgy still remains to date.

The choir renders songs mainly in English and sings in Latin and Yoruba (the indigenous language of Lagos). Their repertoire consists of various genres and styles, like classical, Afro-American spirituals, plainchants, hymns, contemporary American praises and worships, and indigenous Nigerian gospel songs.

The legendary Thomas Ekundayo Phillips composes most Yoruba songs. Some other well-known composers are Fela Sowande, Samuel Akpabot, Ayo Bankole, and Godwin Sadoh. The Cathedral choir isn’t confined to the magnificent walls of this Church; the group also performs in concerts and invitational tourneys. It would be a wonderful experience listening to the musical tunes of this group.

Notable Personalities who worshiped at the Church

So many notable personalities have worshiped at this Church at one point or another. These personalities include King Richard VIII, who laid the foundation stone, Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband Prince Phillip in 1956. The third Nigerian head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.), married his wife in the Cathedral in 1969. On May 16, 1999, the then President-elect Olusegun Obasanjo worshiped at the Cathedral and chaired the Church Hall project.

Some important timeline in the Cathedral history

             1867: Foundation stone laid by J.H. Glover, the Colonial Governor of Lagos.

             1869: Completion of the initial Church building.

             1906: Approval and inauguration of the Anglican Province of West Africa.

             1913: Proposal to upgrade Christ Church to Pro-Cathedral.

             1921: Christ Church upgraded to Pro-Cathedral.

             1937: Installation of microphones took place on March 1.

             1943: First time a Bishop (Rt. Rev. S. C. Phillips) was consecrated in West Africa was in the Church on October 28.

             1954: On January 30, the Diocese of Northern Nigeria was inaugurated in the Church.

             1956: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Phillip, worshiped the Cathedral on January 28.

             1979: Inauguration of the Province of Nigeria on February 24.

Every year, thousands of visitors come from different parts of the world to this Cathedral to catch a glimpse of this magnificent building. The Cathedral Church of Christ remains a top tourist attraction in Lagos. The Cathedral is always open for Sunday and mid-week services, and everyone is welcome to the house of God.

Its strategic location in the Central Business District (CBD) on Lagos Island makes it easily accessible. This area has excellent road networks, hotels, and beautiful restaurants around. When you intend to spend your holiday in Nigeria, the Cathedral Church of Christ should be on your list of places to visit.

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