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If you are visiting Kampala, Uganda, make the Rubaga Cathedral your next destination. FILE PHOTO

Rubaga Cathedral sits atop Lubaga hill in Kampala, one of the seven hills in the region, and is known as St. Mary’s Cathedral Lubaga. Read about the history of the Central African Catholic Church in the following sections.

This cathedral is located at the top of Lubaga hill, one of the seven hills in Kampala, and is called St. Mary’s Cathedral Lubaga (also spelt as Rubaga). In this article, you will read more about Central African Catholic religious history.

An important part of Central African Catholic history can be traced to this church. Because of its location, guests can enjoy panoramic views of Kampala’s cityscape, including its many beautiful architectures.

Leaders (past and current)

The current archbishop is Paul Ssemwogerere
The current archbishop is Paul Ssemwogerere, in office since 2021. FILE PHOTO

Rubaga hill, at 1,434 metres, was originally home to Kabaka Muteesa I, the 30th of Buganda. After his palace was damaged by fire in 1856, the Kabaka Muteesa I of Kampala moved from this hill to a neighbouring hill known as Mengo in Kampala. 

At the end of the 19th century, the Catholic missionaries known as White Fathers and locally referred to as Wafaransa meaning the French were given Namirembe hill by his successor Mwanga II, who gave it to the Anglicans in exchange for Namirembe church. 

Conflicts among the Buganda people were averted by giving the missionaries alternate locations.

In 1914, missionaries began building a new cathedral on this hill, and it was completed in 1925. St. Mary’s Cathedral Rubaga was consecrated on December 31st, 1925, by Pope Paul VI.

Cyprian Kizito Lwanga’s Kampala diocese residence can be found here. In Uganda, he was the Archbishop of Kampala from 2006 until his death in 2021 when he died in his sleep.

Those are some of the notable Catholic figures in Rubaga Cathedral: Joseph Kiwanuka, Uganda’s first black Archbishop; Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga; and several others, including several missionaries, are all laid there.

Paul Ssemwogerere is the current archbishop: 2021 – to date. For the Archdiocese of Kampala, he is the Archbishop of the Catholic Church. On December 9, 2021, Pope Francis named him to this role. 

And, on January 25, 2022, at Kampala’s Saint Mary’s Cathedral Rubaga, he was formally installed as Archbishop of Kampala. He replaces Cyprian Kizito Lwanga.

A brief history of the cathedral

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The historic Rubaga Cathedral stands on the Rubaga Hill in Kampala and is a popular tourist attraction. PHOTO/UGANDA TOURISM CENTRE

When the Kabaka of Buganda and his generals convened there to discuss military exploits, the hill became known as Lubaga. 

The Luganda phrase “okubaga,” which means “to plot,” was the inspiration for the name of the hill. 

After the hill was given to the French Catholic missionaries for their missionary work and establishment of their church, pronouncing the name Lubaga was a problem and they instead pronounced it as Rubaga. ‘

The Rubaga hill has been home to seven cathedrals. Before the start of the current cathedral’s construction, the hill was home to six separate “cathedrals” comprised of various constructions, all of which were destroyed due to various events, such as religious battles or an increase in the number of people becoming Catholic.

The Pope’s visit to Uganda necessitated the restoration of the Roman Catholic Church’s twin towers. Significant in the development of the Catholic Church’s history. The Uganda Martyrs are commemorated in the transept. The stained-glass windows honour 22 martyred Catholics who were ultimately canonised as saints. 

An expansive complex that encompasses numerous religious services, as well as magnificent plants and flowers, is located on a hill overlooking the city.

On July 29, 1969, Pope Paul VI ended the African Bishops Synod held in Uganda, and on February 8, 1993, Pope John Paul II met with Catholic bishops and priests following a prayer session. 

When he arrived, he planted a tree and inaugurated a memorial clock beside the church’s door, which is still there today.

The interior of St. Mary’s Cathedral Rubaga can comfortably accommodate 5,000 worshippers today. The cathedral measures 248 feet in length and 63 feet in width (260 feet if the walls are included). 

The transept is 152 feet long (including the walls) and 50 feet high (including the roof). To build the cathedral, the builders used 2.5 million bricks. 

This “mother-of-all-churches” project in Uganda was sparked in 1901 by an appeal from Ugandan Bishop Henry Halon to all Catholics to donate to the building fund.

Main activities in this area

st mary's cathedral rubaga kampala
At present, St. Mary’s Cathedral Rubaga can accommodate up to 5,000 worshipers. Its dimensions are 248 feet long and 63 feet wide (260 feet if you include the walls). PHOTO/UGANDA TOURISM CENTRE

The Rubaga Hill in Kampala is home to the historic Rubaga Cathedral, a popular tourist destination. One of Uganda’s most famous landmarks, the Rubaga Cathedral, was rebuilt during Pope Francis’ visit to the country. 

From the top of the cathedral, you’ll be able to get some of the best views of the city. There are a lot of people who come here to perform religious services and spend some time here every year. 

Enjoy the natural beauty and serenity of this area after you’ve visited the cathedral.

Why you should visit The Rubaga Cathedral

The views from Rubaga Hill are breathtaking, the setting is tranquil, and the antique Roman architecture is fascinating to observe and appreciate. 

Several renovations have taken place at Rubaga Cathedral church, although the majority of the original materials and architectural design have been preserved.

This gorgeous twin-towered church, which has kept its original lovely architecture both inside and outside the church, as well as nice stained-glass windows, and a stunning interior design, will be on your journey to Rubaga Hill to see Rubaga Cathedral.

Rubaga has numerous other attractions, including the Pope Paul Memorial Hotel and Conference Hall, which is on Kabaka’s lakeside.

There is a Rubaga Hospital, which also has a nursing school, Rubaga Girls’ Secondary School, and several other minor institutions located around the hill, including the church.

Nearby places to Rubaga Cathedral

Kasubi Tombs

There are four kabakas and other members of the Baganda royal family buried in Kampala, Uganda, at the Kasubi Tombs. Rubaga is 3 kilometres north of the Kasubi Tombs.

Nakivubo stadium

Nakivubo Stadium is located about 212 kilometres northeast of Rubaga.

Namirembe Cathedral

It’s the oldest cathedral in Uganda and is situated 1½ km northeast of Rubaga Cathedral.

The Rubaga Cathedral is a must-visit location on your next safari to Kampala, Uganda. Not only will you enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful scenery on the hill but also get to learn why the church exists and its leaders.

If you are looking for a complete Uganda travel experience, we also recommend checking out our guide to Mount MuhaburaMount GahingaKidepo Valley National ParkKibale National ParkLake Mburo National Park and Semuliki National Park.