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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Manche Maseola

Photo: Jean-Christophe BENOIST, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Sculptor: John Roberts (1946–2002)

Materials: Richemont Limestone

Unveiled: 1998 by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Erected: July 1998

Manche Maseola

Manche Maseola (c. 1913–1928) is one of ten modern martyrs whose statues were installed over the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in 1998. It is one of the first statues of a black woman to be erected in Britain.

Manche Maseola was a Pedi girl, born in Marishane in the province of Limpopo, South Africa. She did not attend school, but worked at home and on her family’s land. When a Christian mission was established at Marishane by Fr Augustine Moeka, Maseola was inspired by his preaching. Against her parents’ wishes she attended classes to learn more and this was the beginning of bitter arguments with her parents which became violent. When she converted to Christianity they became anxious that she would leave or refuse to marry and would be regarded an alien in their community. This resulted in them beating her to death on a remote hillside on or near 4 February 1928. Groups of Christian pilgrims visited her grave in 1935, 1941 and 1949. Manche Maseola’s name was added to the calendar of the Anglican Church of South Africa in 1975 with her Feast day on 4 February. Her mother converted to Christianity, she was baptised in 1969.

Location: Niche over Great West Door, Westminster Abbey, London SW1.