Pella, Northern Cape

The Bushmanland oasis of Pella.
Here’s an excellent motivational factoid for encyclopaedia salesmen: In the mid-1880s a huge cathedral was built in the Bushmanland desert oasis of Pella by French missionaries who at first had absolutely no idea what they were doing. They did, however, have a copy of Encyclopedie des Arts et Metiers which contained details of how to construct such a building and, within two incredible years, they finished it. See? Encyclopaedias actually work. They’re not just pretty doorstops.

More than 200 cartloads of sand, 400 wagon loads of stones, 200 000 bricks, 350 bags of slaked lime and hundreds of wagonloads of willow wood went into the construction of this amazing place of worship.

Today, the elegant, sandy-toned cathedral still stands as a tribute to the men of the order of St Francis de la Sales who, incidentally, is the patron saint of writers.

In the late 1990s, the authors met Sister Therese-Henriette, a true veteran of hot places. In her 50-odd years as a Catholic nun, she had served in Upington, Nodonsees, Onseepkans, Pofadder, Matjieskloof, Port Nolloth, Vergenoeg and Pella.

“There’s a lot of love in our lives here in Pella,” said Sister Therese-Henriette. “We also go out and have fun from time to time.”

Before Pella was Pella, Pella was Cammas Fonteyn. In 1814 the feared Nama raider Jager Afrikaner attacked the Warmbad Mission in Great Namaqualand. The mission survivors fled south to Cammas Fonteyn, where the resident London Missionary Society minister renamed it Pella, after the ancient Palestine refuge for Christians crossing the Jordan River in flight.


This is an extract from Karoo Keepsakes: A Traveller’s Guide to the Heartland of South Africa. By Chris Marais & Julienne du Toit.

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One thought on “Pella, Northern Cape

  1. Ros Ambler Lindley says:

    I want to go live in Pella. Maybe a tad too far from Cradock though, my other alternative. xx

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