I have a secret.
In my opinion, she’s the most mysterious, derelict, sleeping beauty in the whole of KwaZulu- Natal. This is the St Mary’s Seminary. She’s close to my heart because I grew up next door to her and since I can remember I’ve wanted to explore her secluded grounds.
She stands hidden behind a thicket of ancient conifers, keeping her very existence a secret from anyone passing by. For now, she succumbs to the overgrowth of creepers, rubbish and rust and the occasional beer bottle bashing from students who don’t see or respect her beauty.
A sturdy metal gate prevents anyone from entering the courtyard. Chicken wire covers all of the stained glass windows and the antique locks have rusted, adding to her inaccessibility. Days go by, seasons, and then years. She waits to be found.
In her glory days, St Mary’s Seminary was a training college for young African Catholic priests. She was built in 1925 shortly after Pope Benedict XV had instructed the Roman Catholic Trappist monks to build training facilities to help accelerate the Christian movement in the newly colonised South Africa.
I wish for her to become famous! Look at her; she’s simply magnificent and so incredibly unknown! If anyone is in the Ixopo region and up for a little ‘off the beaten track’ kind of fun, take that narrow bumpy road up the hill and see for yourself. Although you will most likely not make it past the guard and into the grounds, the outbuildings are open for exploring and you will still be treated with an architectural feast.
For directions to St Mary’s, check out Kings Grant Country Retreats website and find a map. Approximately 4 km down that road, you will see the sign post for the Seminary. www.kingsgrant.co.za
Hope some of you get to see her, she’s waiting patiently!