One of the most fundamental processes of the natural photosynthetic reaction sequence is the light-driven oxidation of water to molecular oxygen. In vivo, this reaction takes place in the large protein ensemble Photosystem II, where a μ-oxido-Mn4Ca- cluster, the oxygen-evolving-complex (OEC), has been identified as the catalytic site for the four-electron/four-proton redox reaction of water oxidation. This Perspective presents recent progress for three strategies which have been followed to prepare functional synthetic analogues of the OEC: (1) the synthesis of dinuclear manganese complexes designed to act as water-oxidation catalysts in homogeneous solution, (2) heterogeneous catalysts in the form of clay hybrids of such Mn2-complexes and (3) the preparation of manganese oxide particles of different compositions and morphologies. We discuss the key observations from the studies of such synthetic manganese systems in order to shed light upon the catalytic mechanism of natural water oxidation. Additionally, it is shown how research in this field has recently been motivated more and more by the prospect of finding efficient, robust and affordable catalysts for light-driven water oxidation, a key reaction of artificial photosynthesis. As manganese is an abundant and non-toxic element, manganese compounds are very promising candidates for the extraction of reduction equivalents from water. These electrons could consecutively be fed into the synthesis of “solar fuels” such as hydrogen or methanol.