Tuesday, 4 December 2012


Following the successful launch of our first book, “101 Country churches of South Africa,” my co-author Darryl David and I were very keen to extend our offering to the book-reading public, and this resulted in the production of our second book, “A Platteland Pilgrimage: 102 Country churches of South Africa.”

Our new book contains considerably more detail than the first one – we have included more church interiors, showing features such as organs, pulpits, galleries and stained glass windows, we have described more history, we have explored the relationship of the church vis-a-vis the town or village where it is situated, and have also included more than one photo per church where we could. There is a four-page section featuring South Africa’s best-known church architects, and an easy-to-read double-page map, showing where each town is placed.

We launched our book at the Boekbedonnerd Book Festival held at Richmond, Karoo, to critical acclaim, and, in the space of six weeks, have sold some 125 copies. There are some 350 copies in our stock at present.

The book contains 132 pages, all in full-colour, A 4, soft cover. Price is R 250 + R 25 postage. You can obtain the book by contacting me at Philippe.menache@gmail.com or 083 307 4041. It is also available through Kalahari.com

For less than the price of half a tank of petrol, we guarantee that our product will give you hours of reading pleasure!  

Sunday, 5 August 2012

101 Country Churches of South Africa

101 Country Churches of South Africa
The idea of exploring country towns and, in particular, their churches arose from a need to escape the city. This concept germinated some forty years ago, when I acquired my first car. Many of the churches in country towns are placed in central, focal positions, and this serves to emphasise their prominence – think of those churches situated in market squares or traffic circles, or where they form a terminal vista at the end of a cross-street.  

Why Country churches?

The problem with some church buildings in cities is that they are often situated in cramped sites, are often hemmed in by other buildings or skyscrapers, and are often closed for security reasons. All these factors detract from the sense of peace and serenity that should prevail. By contrast, country churches do not always have these drawbacks, and are generally more accessible as a result. And yes, they do offer solace, peace and quiet, especially when the town is half-asleep in the heat of the day, and there is nothing but sun and blue sky and a beautiful church spire to look at.

Although it took a very long time to actually get to write a book on South Africa’s country churches, once I teamed up with y co-author, Darryl David in 2008, the idea of doing a joint work was far more appealing to me than going it alone. Darryl, who is the founder of Richmond Booktown (South Africa’s first town dedicated to books, with lots and lots of bookshops, shared the same interest and passion as I did, so it made sense that we join forces in accomplishing this book, called 101 Country Churches of South Africa. The book was self-published in late 2010, as we were unsuccessful in eliciting sufficient interest from the publishing industry in general. It consists of 116 pages and in full colour, (of course!)

At the outset, I need to mention that the contents of the book do not reflect a religious perspective, but focuses rather on the aesthetics and architectural merits of the church buildings. Truth be known, South Africa has been left with a legacy of remarkable church architecture, where many of the architects, usually from Europe, left their mark. Think of architects such as Sir Herbert Baker, who designed the Union Buildings and several city cathedrals and some smaller country churches;  Charles Freeman, who designed buildings such as the massive Dutch Reformed Church in Graaff-Reinet and the Methodist church in Greenmarket Square, Cape Town; Sophy Gray, who came to South Africa in the mid-19th Century with her husband, Bishop Robert Gray, and through whose architectural plans and designs, produced some forty churches for the various Anglican congregations in the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape; Carl-Otto H├Ąger, the German architect who designed beautiful “Gothic” churches, famous for their pinnacles and still very much in evidence in various towns in the Western and Eastern Cape; William Henry Ford, who designed some lovely castle-like church buildings throughout most provinces; Gerhard Moerdyk, our very own architectural genius, who designed over ninety church buildings, many of these in the “Byzantine” style, with their domes and cupolas. And there are lots of other talented architects and building contractors who contributed to our architectural legacy. Our main interest is in the design of older church buildings, say before 1940, as, after this period, the church designs became modern and angular, and these structures do not appeal to us at all, so they are not featured. Granted, the focus in on churches based on Christianity – the three branches of the Dutch Reformed Church, the various denominations of the English-speaking congregations, such as Anglican, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, etc., and the Mission churches, often started by organisations such as the Berlin Missionary Society, many of which are still in use in the Western and Southern Cape, and Mission churches in Kwa-Zulu Natal, started by Trappist Monks.

Darryl and I sold our book via word-of-mouth, to friends and acquaintances, as well as through various newspapers and magazines, as well as to selected bookshops that specialise in Africana. A total of some 240 books have been sold so far.

“A PLATTELAND PILGRIMAGE – 102 Country Churches of South Africa.”

A lot of research has been spent on this, our second book, due to be launched at the end of October 2012 in Booktown Richmond. Darryl and I (independently) set out o explore more church interiors, many of which are exquisite – we discovered beautiful, delicate panelled woodwork in pulpits, and the galleries where the organ was located. Plus some of the organs feature intricately painted pipes. Some of the stained-glass windows are comparable to any in Europe’s cathedrals.  Our second book will also feature more than one photograph per page, so as to add more variety and more perspective for the reader. This book will contain 132 pages and will cost R 250. We will be printing 500 copies, again at our own cost, and will inform our existing client database, many of whom had already expressed prior interest in acquiring the sequel to our first book.

Darryl and I simply want to share our passion to those discerning individuals who find inspiration in travelling off the crowded National roads and explore our many by-ways and bygone places. When one stops at these sometimes isolated centres, one experiences a sublime feeling of peace and tranquillity, and besides exploring the town’s various features, the church is usually the highlight. Very few guide tourist books even mention the lesser-travelled provinces such as the North-West province Highveld, most of the Free State, most of the Karoo and Northern Cape, and the hinterlands of the Eastern and Western Cape. That’s why so many of our villages remain totally unknown entities. Our books emphasise that there is a lot of hidden beauty, waiting to be found.

So, to the audience following my blog, please spread the word – we still have some copies of our first book available, and you can book your personal, autographed copy of our second book – contact me via e-mail at philippe.menache@gmail.com or phone me on (27) 83 307 4041.