Friday, January 21, 2011

Historic City Series: M'Banza-Kongo

M'Banza-Kongo, formerly known as Sao Salvador is the capital of Angola's northwestern Zaire Province . The city was founded some time before the arrival of the Portuguese and was the capital of the historic Kongo Kingdom.  Geographically, its sits on top of an impressive flat-topped mountain, sometimes called Mongo a Kaila (mountain of division) because legends recall that the King created the clans of the kingdom and sent them out from there.

M'banza-Kongo was once the seat of power of the Manikongo, the ruler of the Kingdom of Kongo, from where he would appoint governors for the provinces and receive tribute from neighboring subjects. At its peak, the kingdom reached from southern Africa's Atlantic coast to the Nkisi River up in southern Nigeria; an enormous geographical area some 1,000 miles in length . The Jalankuwo, the Manikongo's judgement tree, can still be found in the downtown area of the city on the grounds of the royal palace and present day Royal Museum.
It is also known for the ruins of its 16th century cathedral (built in 1549), which many Angolans claim is the oldest church in sub-Saharan Africa. The church, known locally as nkulumbimbi, is now said to have been built by angels overnight. It was elevated to the status of cathedral in 1596. Pope John Paul II visited the site during his tour of Angola in 1992.

When the Portuguese arrived in the Kongo region, Mbanza-Kongo was already a large town, perhaps the largest in subequatorial Africa, as certified by Portuguese officials in 1491.   During the reign of King Afonso I of Kongo, stone buildings were added, including a palace and several churches. The town grew substantially as the kingdom of Kongo expanded and an ecclesiastical statement of the 1630s related that 4,000-5,000 baptisms were performed in the city and its immediate hinterland, the surrounding valleys, which is consistent with an overall population of 100,000 people. (Wikipedia:  Mbanza-Kongo)

A video showing the history and scenery of Mbanza-Kongo can be seen here:

1 comment:

Dean Kutzler said...

Thanks for the info. It's hard to find anything about Angola..