Reminiscent of  something out of the PhotoXplorers TV series a chance conversation lead me to recently discover this most amazing and beautiful old derelict brick building lost off the beaten track up a rutted dirt road in the overgrowth of the Ixopo forest in KwaZulu Natal.

It is certainly embroiled in a very fascinating historical past; in the early years of colonisation in South Africa priests from Europe, and to a lesser extent North America, were sent to provide pastoral care for the European settlers and to evangelise the black population. Prior to 1922 no priests were actually trained in South Africa by the Christian churches.

In 1919 Pope Benedict XV had mandated the training of ‘indigenous’ priests in their own countries and so driven by an order of Roman Catholic  Trappist Monks living in various missions across the region, African’s were slowly converted to Christianity. Originally founded in 1925 the buildings at St Mary’s Seminary were constructed as one of a collection of secluded facilities to train African priests.

I can’t source much more information about when and why it closed down but I’m told the facility was also once used as a nurse training facility. The Church recently offered the building and land for sale for a sum of a mere R7 million but no buyer was found.

The chapel out the back still has all its stained glass windows in place and people who have been inside tell me it is strewn with old library books. I tried to get in myself but the building has recently been secured and there wasn’t any easy access that I could find to get in and get some internal photos. I’m told there was a problem with people getting in and breaking the old wash basins to steal pipework to sell as scrap metal so it was neccessary to amp up the security before all the doors and windows were stolen too.

The internal courtyard (shown below) has also just recently been tidied up so perhaps it is back on the market again or a new owner has already taken it over. It is certainly a very beautiful gem!