Tranquillity in every brick at Mariannhill Monastery

The entrance to the Mariannhill Monastery in the 1920s. | ASHRAF ESSOP ADAM

The entrance to the Mariannhill Monastery in the 1920s. | ASHRAF ESSOP ADAM

Published Mar 31, 2024


Durban — This week, our feature on Durban buildings then and now goes to the entry of the Mariannhill Monastery in Pinetown.

The monastery was founded by Trappist Monks as a Catholic Mission in 1882, led by Prior Franz Pfanner, who then became Abbot, and was incredibly strict about the vow of silence. It boasts an impressive display of architecture and design, beginning at the entrance gate.

The words Ora et Labora (pray and work, in Latin) appear on the cast-iron roof ridge detail. This phrase refers to the monastic practice of working and praying; work is considered a form of worship and a spiritual mastering of work.

The entrance to the Mariannhill Monastery this week. | SHELLEY KJONSTAD Independent Newspapers

From the octagonal bay mounted with a cockerel finial, to the dog-tooth coursing and the copper fish-scale shingles on the roof of the gatehouse tower and the inset statue, not much has changed since the 1920s entry – except for a sad sign of our times: the addition of sturdy burglar guards and a security guard at the gate.

The Independent on Saturday often features the monastery because of its beautiful surroundings and photographic opportunities. The Cathedral ceiling is covered with beautiful frescoes, and light streams through stained glass windows.

The gardens, tea garden, and vegetable gardens provide an oasis of tranquillity, accompanied by the occasional Gregorian chant, in a frenetic world just outside the entry. The old buildings, slowed pace and peaceful surrounds are a balm to the soul, and one does not need to visit with religious intent to benefit.

Tour options are available to visit many of the buildings, the beautiful private gardens, the Cathedral, vestments, the church and the museum.

Independent on Saturday