Genadendal or the valley of grace

The mission station of Genadendal, also known as the valley of grace, was founded by the Moravavian Missionary Society in 1793 in what was called Baviaans Kloof, ravine of the baboons.

Where in 1737 an earlier worker of the Society, Georg Schmidt, had attempted to establish a station for the conversion of the Hottentots to Christianity.This effort had failed, ending after five years in a squabble over the missionary’s right to administer Baptism to his converts.


The early beginnings

The Moravian Church (originated in 1457 in Moravia, today part of Slovakia) had a particular zeal for mission work and in 1737 the young German bachelor missionary Georg Schmidt was sent to the Cape. Many thought that mission work among the Khoi (Hottentots) was attempting the impossible, but in spite of this Schmidt settled on 23 April 1738 in Baviaans Kloof (Ravine of the Baboons) in the Riviersonderend Valley.

Schmidt became acquainted with an impoverished and dispersed Khoi people who were practically on the threshold of complete extinction. Apart from the few kraals which still remained, there were already thirteen farms in the vicinity of Baviaans Kloof. Within a short while Schmidt formed a small Christian congregation. He taught the Khoi to read and write, but when he began to baptise his converts there was great dissatisfaction among the Cape Dutch Reformed clergy. According to them, Schmidt was not an ordained minister and so was not permitted to administer the sacraments. Consequently he had to abandon his work, and in 1744, after seven years at Baviaans Kloof, he left the country.

The mission work resumed 

Only in 1792 did the Moravians obtain permission to resume Schmidt’s work at Baviaans Kloof. For this task three missionaries, H. Marsveld, C. Kühnel and D. Schwinn, were chosen.

When they arrived they found the ruins of Schmidt’s dwelling, with a great pear tree  in the garden. There was also an old woman, Magdalena, whom Schmidt had baptised, whose acquaintance they made. She was able to show them a Bible (on display in museum), kept in a leather bag, which had been given to her years ago by Schmidt.

The missionaries listened with amazement when she asked her daughter to read a portion of the New Testament to them. When the work in Baviaans Kloof was resumed, the missionaries and the members of their congregation had to cope with a number of problems. The Stellenbosch D.R.C. questioned the authority and the desirability of mission work in Baviaans Kloof, which lay within the boundaries of their ministerial district.

The museum

There are 15 exhibition rooms with a unique collection ranging from household equipment, musical instruments, medical equipment, tools, books, printing presses, the oldest fire-engine and oldest pipeorgan in the country etc., etc.

The contents of the museum were declared a National Cultural Treasure on 8 March 1991. Most of the collection on display has been produced and used at this mission station.

Genadendal (1738), the oldest mission station on the continent of Africa, was one of the most progressive ‘communities at the Cape during the 19th century. The Moravian Missionaries and members of the congregation, apart from fulfilling their religious duties, carried out pioneering work in the fields of education, music, printing, vernacular architecture, furniture making and other local industries.

The old water mill build 1796


Typical thatch cottage 



The mission church 


The class room now in the museum 


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