St. Matthew's Cathedral, Benin CIty

Oldest surviving church in Benin City

This prominently located colonial church stands near the ancient market site of Ekiokpagha, where Oba Ewedo faced off against Benin City's republican indigenes centuries ago.

St. Matthew's Cathedral is part of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, and the oldest surviving church in Benin. It opened in 1902, just after the Church Missionary Society (CMS) established itself in the city. The land for the church was donated by a convert, Madam Arokunbo Ovoranmwen,  one of Oba Ovoranmwen's widows, for it had been the site of her father's house. Interest in Christianity increased rapidly; in only its sixth year of operation, it witnessed 85 baptisms. 

The Cathedral's basilica form is flanked by twin belltowers, a typical floorplan for Christian churches, but its hasty erection meant its form was streamlined, without the decorative features that marked its counterparts in EuropeAt the time it was built, however, it was the tallest structure in the city, giving it architectural primacy. It became the royal church in 1931, when Oba Eweka II began to attend regular, a habit continued by Oba Akenzua II, who held a thanksgiving service at St. Matthew's the day after his coronation. At least nine additional Anglican churches are now in Benin, as well as numerous Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal Christian churches. 

Its associated school, the St. Matthew's CMS Day School, was the only mission-run educational institution in Benin for a decade; with only one public elementary school (the first public secondary school in Benin did not open until 1937). Western education in the city lagged far behind that of western Nigeria, where the British had established a Board of Education in Lagos as early as 1877. 

St. Matthew's marks a memorable location, for the land near it marks the current dynasty's takeover of the inner city in the 14th century. Oba Ewedo, the dynasty's fourth ruler, came to terms with the city's republican leader Chief Ogiamien after a battle between their two forces. Their agreement took place at Ekiopagha market by St. Matthew's. Until Oba Ewuare II's 2016 coronation, the treaty between the Oba and the incumbent Chief Ogiamien was reenacted a week after every coronation. its location had marked a border of sorts between the territories until the indigenes, led by Chief Ogiamien, and the area nominally controlled by the monarchy. The initial treaty acknowledged the sovereignty of the Oba and he established his palace within the city.



18 Sakponba Road, Benin City, Nigeria