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A Brief History Of The Cathedral Church Of St. Peters, The First Church In Nigeria

Arguably, Badagry can be said to be the starting point of Christianity in Nigeria but not the first place to house a church.

The cathedral church of St. Peters, Ake Abeokuta, is the first church in Nigeria.

History teaches us that when Christianity first came to what is now known as Nigeria through the Portuguese missionary, no particular church was established before they left.

If they had succeeded in consecrating one, Warri would have been the home of Nigeria’s first church.

Because when the Augustinian and Capuchin monks from Portugal came in through the Benin River and made contact with the Itsekiris during the fifteenth century, Warri was the first place they appeared.

However, four centuries would have to pass, after the departure of the Portuguese monks, before the first mission of the Church of England, which is the Anglican church, was established in 1842, in Badagry, by Henry Townsend.

After the priestly ordination of Henry Townsend in England- 1842-  he set off for Sierra Leone. He would work there only a few months before coming to Nigeria as a result of the Yoruba mission.

And from 1846 to 1867, Abeokuta became the vineyard that he was called to work.

Thomas Birch Freeman is, however, believed to be the first European to enter Abeokuta. He arrived the old city on 11 December 1842.

He would meet with Henry Townsend on 24 December upon his return to Badagry. It was this meeting that birthed the first “Christmas Day” celebration in Nigeria.

Be that as it may, the foundation of Nigeria’s first church would be laid in Ake, Abeokuta, by Rev. Andrew Desalu Wilhelm, years after the mission of Rev. Henry Townsend.

The church, which is known as the cathedral church of St. Peters, was completed in 1898.

Being the first of its kind, it was only natural for the church to serve as a rallying point for a good number of early missionaries who were at the time, spreading the gospel of Christianity in Abeokuta and its environs.

Presently, the St. Peters premises now harbours a newer and bigger auditorium where worship and other religious activities are being carried out. But the actual building that was built in 1898 still stands tall till date.

It is used as a tourist site.

The church might not have been named after Henry Townsend who played a very important role in the birthing of Christianity in Abeokuta… but he will surely be remembered because a hall within the church premises is named after him.


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Written by BJ


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