Stone Town Context
The cathedral is of historical importance, a Grade 1 Listed Building and a significant land mark.
Zanzibar Stone Town is one of the world’s most important heritage sites. The area achieved World Heritage status in 2000. The U.N. Evaluation notes:
“The Stone Town evolved through several millennia of maritime mercantile interaction. The surviving town is a physical reflection of testimony to this long-term interchange of human values within the coastal region of East Africa. It gives an authentic impression of the living Swahili culture and it is the best preserved example of its kind. The layout, technology, and design of the Stone Town buildings, expertly blending imported and local ideas, materials, and techniques, makes the Stone Town an example of indigenous creativity. Its continuous use as a residential and commercial town is a powerful medium for manifesting the memories of the slave trade and of explorers such as Vasco de Gama and David Livingstone. Criteria iii, iv, and v.”
The Stone Town Conservation and Development Authority employs teams of trained artisans but they are too few to prevent the many insensitive intrusions into the historic fabric that results from a general lack of understanding about conservation methods. They are supportive of the church’s efforts to care for its buildings and raise awareness of conservation issues.
A vocational programme in the craft of restoration has potential to be a real support in promoting good practice as well as conserving the Cathedral and associated buildings. It will be able to draw on graduates from local technical schools as well as train young school-leavers.
Once the cathedral has been made safe, work can start on conserving the marvellous beaten copper panels, intricate wood panelling, stained glass, clock, Willis organ, etc. The building exhibits a rich mix of late 19th century British, continental and Swahili craftsmanship.
International support will help raise the profile of conservation in Zanzibar. Artisans will be invited to spend time in the city, exploring the island’s unique atmosphere while providing guidance to the students.