Hidden Joburg: The Lemon Squeezer Church

by | May 18, 2022 | Arts and Culture, Hidden Joburg, Johannesburg, Museums and Buildings, Religion | 11 comments

I recently bought a copy of Hidden Johannesburg, a hardback coffee table book featuring 28 of Joburg’s most interesting (and difficult to access, in some cases) buildings and interiors.

Hidden Joburg book
Hidden Johannesburg, written by Paul Duncan and photographed by Alain Proust. The book is part of a series that also includes Hidden Cape Town, Hidden Pretoria, and Hidden Karoo. It was published in 2016 — I don’t know what took me so long to get it.

I’m enchanted with this book; I love flipping through, gazing at the beautiful photographs, and reminiscing about my own visits to some of the places featured. I’m pleased to say I’ve been inside 15 of the 28 buildings in the book.

The list of buildings featured in Hidden Joburg. Some of the places I haven’t visited yet, like the old Park Station concourse pictured on the cover of the book, are extremely difficult to get into. There are a few others that I’d never heard of before.

Now, of course, I want to visit ALL the buildings in Hidden Joburg. And last week I got to add a new one to the list: St. Charles Borromeo, a.k.a. the Lemon Squeezer Church, in Victory Park.

St. Charles Borromeo, the Lemon Squeezer Church

I visited St. Charles Borromeo thanks to my old friend and former blogger Lucy Sarah O’Connell, who is a member of the congregation and saw me musing on Instagram about how badly I wanted to see the church. Thorsten, Gail, and I met Lucy there last week and she gave us a tour.

Outside the Lemon Squeezer Church
You can see why everyone calls it the Lemon Squeezer. The top of the church was also designed to resemble Jesus’ crown of thorns.
Sketch of lemon squeezer
One of Thorsten‘s great sketches of the church.
St. Charles Borromeo in Hidden Joburg
A beautiful picture of the inside of the Lemon Squeezer Church in Hidden Joburg. I have new respect for Alain Proust after visiting the church myself — it’s difficult to photograph.

St. Charles Borromeo was built in 1966, at a time when avant-garde Catholic Church architecture was a trend. (There is a similar-looking lemon squeezer in Maputo, built around the same time, which I was able to photograph from the outside in 2019.)

Inside the Lemon Squeezer Church
My own attempt at the interior.
Lucy inside the lemon squeezer church in Victory Park
Lucy in the Lemon Squeezer.
Side chapel at St. Charles Borromeo
One of the side chapels. The stained glass windows in the church were only added in 2004.
Church roof
I like Thorsten’s sketch of the church’s roof.
Sun shining at the top of St. Charles Boromeo
This shot of the outside was kind of an accident but it turned out to be one of my favorites.

I don’t go to church. But if I did I would love to attend one like the Lemon Squeezer, which allows congregants to sit on all sides of the service. I also love the modern mural painted behind the altar, which illustrates the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Holy Trinity painting in the Lemon Squeezer Church
The Holy Trinity. Apparently the flame-like background in the middle represents God’s love.

The design of this church feels very exciting and unexpected to me — it’s full of surprises.

Drawing of Lemon Squeezer

Thanks again for the great visit, Lucy. Now, who can get me in to that old Park Station concourse? Hopefully I’ll have more Hidden Joburg posts to come.


  1. davidjbristow

    The Lemon Squeezer was one of a few cornerstones or our social lives back in the ’70s, another being St Mungo’s in Bryanston, where liberal priests thought it much better that we consume rock music and cbeap booze and dance like people with St Vitus disease under their watchful eye than elsewhere. Champions. All the best bands of the day played there.

    • 2summers

      A lot of people seem to have these kinds of memories of this church. Very interesting! And cool.

  2. Brenda

    Wow, what a stunning church. Thanks for sharing

  3. Margaret Urban

    That mural behind the altar is very similar to the recent first radioastronomy ‘pictures’ of a black hole. So – very appropriate – both black holes and God are largely unknown …

    • 2summers

      Wow, that’s so cool!

  4. AutumnAshbough

    The stained glass windows seem a a jarring juxtaposition with the modern architecture, but that church definitely isn’t boring! How are the acoustics?

    • 2summers

      Yeah, I guess that’s why they didn’t have stained glass originally. But then I guess they started to feel envious of all the other stained glass churches.

  5. Lani

    What gorgeous architecture! And a great nickname to boot!

    • 2summers

      It is an exceptionally great nickname.


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