The Kingdom of Kongo and the Counter Reformation

in Social Sciences and Missions

From early contact with the Portuguese and conversion to Christianity in the late 15th century and continuing through the Counter Reformation, the Kingdom of Kongo resisted Portuguese colonialism while remaining steadfastly loyal to the Roman Catholic Church. Against the turbulent backdrop of the growing Atlantic slave trade, internal conflict and power struggles, and Portuguese presence in Luanda, Kongo repeatedly resisted the temptation to break from Rome and establish its own Church, in spite of Portuguese control of the Episcopate. In the late 16th century King Álvaro clashed with the Portuguese Bishop, but remained faithful to the church in Rome. In the early 17th century, Kongo armies repelled Portuguese invasions from the south while kings continued to lobby for more Jesuit and later Italian Capuchin missionaries, whom they needed, above all, to perform sacraments vital to Kongolese Catholics. Another opportunity to split from Rome came when Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita created the Antonian movement in 1704 and denounced the Catholic Church. Instead, she was captured and burned at the stake while King Pedro IV remained faithful to the Capuchin missionaries. In contrast to Portuguese Angola, where Jesuits were deeply implicated in slave trading, the Capuchins in Kongo did not own slaves and, for the most part, both resisted and criticized the slave trade.

  • 2)

    Thornton, Cultural History, pp. 435-41.

  • 3)

    Thornton, Cultural History, pp. 417-19.

  • 7)

    John Thornton, “Master or Dupe? The Reign of Pedro V of Kongo,” Portuguese Studies Review 19 (2011): 97-114.

  • 10)

    Cécile Fromont, “Dance, Image, Myth and Conversion in the Kingdom of Kongo, 1500-1800,” African Arts (Winter, 2011): 52-63.

  • 14)

    François Bontinck, “Ndoadidike Ne-Kinu A Mubemba, premier évêque Kongo (c. 1495-1531)”. Revue africaine de Théologie, 3, (1979): 149-69.

  • 22)

    Bontinck and Ndembe Nsasi, Catechisme, pp. 17-23.

  • 25)

    Jácome Dias, 1 August 1548, in Brásio, ed. Monumenta 15: 159-60.

  • 28)

    Brásio, Monumenta 2: 44.

  • 32)

    Heywood and Thornton, Central Africans, pp. 83-85.

  • 34)

    Heywood and Thornton, Central Africans, pp. 87-91.

  • 35)

    ANTT, IL Processo 2522, fol. 148, see also Processo 2938.

  • 36)

    ANTT IL, Processos 2507, 2522, 2938 all grew out of the dispute over control of Kongo’s church.

  • 37)

    ANTT, IL, Processo 2507, fol. 91.

  • 38)

    François Bontinck, “Conflit entre le Saint-Siège et le “Padroado” - Royaume de Congo, 17e siècle,” Archivium Historiae Pontificae 4 (1966), 197-218; Richard Gray, “The African Origins of the Mission Antiqua,” in Lamine Sanneh, ed., Christianity, the Papacy and Mission in Africa (Maryknoll, 2012), pp. 27-47.

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  • 40)

    Saccardo, Congo e Angola 1: 112-16.

  • 41)

    Heywood and Thornton, Central Africans, pp. 110-14.

  • 43)

    Saccardo, Congo e Angola 1: 193-195.

  • 46)

    Saccardo, Congo e Angola 1: 195-197.

  • 47)

    Saccardo, Congo e Angola 1: 273-74.

  • 48)

    Heywood and Thornton, Central Africans, pp. 135-52.

  • 49)

    Heywood and Thornton, Central Africans, pp. 179-83.

  • 57)

    Giuseppe Pistone, “I manoscritti ‘Araldi’ di Padre Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi da Montecuccolo,” Atti e memorie, Accademia Nazionale di Scienze, Lettere e Arti di Modena 9 (1969): 152-65.

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