In 1909, a small church was built in the Ugandan village of Kituvo. Less than two decades later, the congregation had grown and Masaka Cathedral replaced the modest thatched building that has served the parish. This larger redbrick building was designed by Brother Flera Martin and was constructed exclusively from local materials, using bricks, timber, and iron sheets. The major event in the building’s religious history occurred in 1939, when Joseph Kiwánuka arrived to preside over the Kituvo congregation. Born in central Uganda, Kiwánuka was the first sub-Saharan African Catholic bishop. He redefined the identity of the local church, arranging educational programs and spearheading development plans. He is revered by Ugandans for his wisdom and sense of justice, and is closely associated with the church where he presided. Today, Masaka Cathedral remains the spiritual hub for the Catholic community of Kituvo, which constitutes 70% of the overall population.
1998 World Monuments Watch
Decades of harsh weather and seismic activity caused Masaka Cathedral to become structurally unstable by the 1990s. At that time, the local community began searching for financial and technical assistance to repair the structure, especially the roof, which was sagging dangerously. Missionaries of Africa, Inc. nominated Masaka Cathedral to the 1998 Watch. WMF secured support from American Express, which enabled the entire roof and tower to be repaired. Three missing arches in the sanctuary were replaced and steel was introduced into the cathedral’s skeleton to improve long-term stability. The tower was reinforced and bricks were cleaned, repaired, and reset where necessary. The Watch listing was also the catalyst for a road that was built from the nearby village of Nyendo to the cathedral, enhancing accessibility to congregants and tourists. In September 1998, Kituvo held a Masaka Cathedral World Heritage Event sponsored by WMF and American Express and attended by representatives from the Ugandan government, including the prime minister.
At the Masaka Cathedral World Heritage Event in 1998, then-Prime Minister of Uganda Kintu Musoke called the community to action: “We have a proverb in Luganda whose message is international. When you see a friend joining in weeping, you weep more. When you see someone far way caring for you and assisting you, you must care more for yourself and assist yourself more.” After WMF placed Masaka Cathedral on the 1998 Watch list, the Kituvo’s Catholic population increased its commitment to the project even further. A significant portion of the funding for the restoration was provided by local donors. The restoration of Masaka Cathedral not only strengthened a building, but also the pride and sense of cultural heritage of a community.