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Llandaff Oratory
Van Reenen, Free State



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28°22'36.91" S 29°22'43.25" E Alt: 1677m

This well-known landmark is often referred to as the "littlest church in the world." Whether or not this is true remains a moot point. But tiny it really is, capable of housing a total of eight people at maximum capacity. (Menache et al 2012:55)

The church was built by Joseph Maynard Mathew who was a magistrate in Natal at the time of the Burnside Colliery disaster in March 1925. In this disaster his son, Llandaff Mathew, was killed in an attempt to save the lives of his fellow miners.

The grief-stricken father resigned his appointment and ultimately took Holy Orders in the Roman Catholic Church. He wished a plaque to be placed in a Catholic church in memory of his son, but in vain. Undaunted, he built The Little Church (Llandaff Oratory) for the sole purpose of housing this plaque. In strict terms the building cannot be called a church because it is privately owned. This building is then an oratory.

The church was bought by Mr Charles West-Thomas when he started business in Van Reenen. When he married his second wife, Mims, the church was one of the wedding presents he gave to her.

(Extracted from newspaper articles - see right)

For a history of the church see an article by Pam McFadden, submitted by Annelise Lange.

The church was declared a National Monument on 28 October 1983 and is now a Provincial Heritage Site.

Writings about this entry

Menache, Philippe & David, Darryl Earl. 2012. A Platteland Pilgrimage : 102 country churches of South Africa . South Africa: Booktown Richmond Press. pg 55
Oxley, John. 1992. Places of Worship in South Africa. Halfway House: Southern Book Publishers. pg 125-126