Just 3km outside f the bustling Kampala city centre, the saint Mary’s cathedral commonly known as the Rubaga cathedral is the oldest Roman Catholic diocese in Uganda and is also home of the archbishop of the Kampala diocese Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga. It one of the many places of worship in Uganda and Kampala in particular with great architectural beauty that draws a number of tourists each year. The magnificent ancient cathedral is an important site to the religious, educational and health lives of many of the Kampala people.
The beautiful architecture of the Romanesque era draws Catholics and non Catholics alike to this place to marvel at the earliest missionaries magnificent piers, warped windows speckled with colour rich paintings of catholic saints, and the upholstery assortment that make up for a great edifice up to today. Even after the face lift during renovations in 1993 in preparation of the papal visit of Pope John Paul ll left much of the material and architectural art design intact.
The Cathedral is perched on Rubaga hills another important hill on which Kampala city; the largest in the country thrives. The hill once housed the palace of Kabaka Mwanga l Mukabya Walugembe which was later gutted by fire forcing him onto Mengo hill. His son Mwanga ll in 1889 donated it to the white fathers who were at that point making all effort to set up nascent Catholic Church in the country. Come 1925 the cathedral was complete and later consecrated in December that same year. The Saint Mary’s cathedral today stands as the headquarters of the Catholic Church in Uganda and the burial place of the remains of the first African catholic bishop and the first African archbishop of Kampala diocese.
According to the Buganda folks the Lubaga hill derives its name from a luganda word “okubaga” meaning to plan. The hill was used by the Kabaka and his generals to plan military expeditions. Later on when the hill was donated to the white fathers that introduced the catholic faith to Uganda, they had problems pronouncing the word as Lubaga they instead pronounced it as Rubaga. The name caught on and until today the place, cathedral, local government jurisdiction, and hospital are all named Rubaga.
The not only hosts the cathedral but also a number of important institutions like the Rubaga hospital one of the five major traditional hospitals, a nursing school and a leadership training institute, the pope Paul memorial hotel and conference centre and a number of catholic projects’ head offices. Every Sunday thousands of catholic believer flock the cathedral for mass and special prayers normally said by Archbishop of Kampala Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga.
Apart from being the burial ground of the first African catholic bishop in Uganda and the first archbishop of Uganda as well as the first cardinal Emmanuel Kiwanuka Nsubuga but also a cemetery where numerous catholic missionaries and faithful are laid to rest
Because of the historical significance the many Catholics crave, and pray to be married in this church or even just attend mass said by archbishop or to pray to the supreme god to meet their needs