1656 mission to Warri

1-6-1655 Giovanni Francesco da Roma to Propaganda Fide: Proposal of a mission

Most Eminent Reverend Lords,

The king of Warri, a Christian kingdom lying on the African coast next to the kingdom of Benin, about eight degrees this side of the Equator, wrote last year to the late Pope Innocent X, asking him urgently to send him evangelical ministers for his own spiritual good and that of his whole kingdom, since there was not a single priest there. A priest from the island of São Tomé used to go there once a year to baptize newborn infants, but would then go, leaving that tender vine of the Lord uncared for. For more than seven years they have not received even this spiritual help.

The Capuchin religious who went to the kingdom of Benin in 1651 and were not able to achieve anything there, tried to go to Warri, but because they were Spanish the Portuguese would not let them go. The indigenous of these two kingdoms are of a very docile nature. Those of Warri are already Christian, but have no one to help them. Those of Benin are gentiles, but if their salvation is sought with the proper methods, with gentleness and not harshness, they would be very easy to subject to our holy Catholic Faith. Their conversion would be all the easier, because there is a special relationship between the king of Warri and that of Benin. So religious who go to Warri can easily, by means of that king, have access to the kingdom of Benin and at the same time subject him to the holy Catholic Faith.

When your Eminences decide to send missionaries to this place, there are thirteen Capuchin religious ready, some preachers, some priests and some lay brothers, all qualified to embrace such a project with eagerness and spiritual fervor, as they humbly prostrate at your feet. There are no Spanish among them, nor any subject of Spain, as such a mission demands, since they cannot go to Warri withoug passing through Portugal and having a passport of that Crown. That is because they must go to Lisbon to get transport for the island of São Tomé, which belongs to the Portuguese, and from there they find transport to the coast, where there are likewise Portuguese.

The climate of those kingdoms is quite good. Living there is like living in Congo. They have no bread or wine, but a sort of root which they call inyam, which takes the place of bread, and palm wine, which takes the place of wine. They have chickens, pigs, goats and other domestic and wild animals. Their buildings are more refined than those of Congo. One can easily arrive there in two months from Lisbon. The people are all black in color, but not deformed in their faces. Finally they are all recommended to your Eminences' great piety and holy zeal. May God [increase it].

26-6-1655 Cardinal Capponi to King of Benin

To the king of Benin, 26 June 1655. Most Serene Lord,

This Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith , entirely dedicated to the growth of the Catholic Religion, does not pass over any opportunity to achieve its aim. Besides, it was founded to promote the Faith especially in the kingdoms and provinces where it has already been accepted by the piety of the princes. Since we have heard of the pious desire of your Majesty to have in your kingdom some good workers for the spiritual service of your subjects, we have decided to accede to the generous thought and pious zeal of your Majesty by sending to you a number of Capuchin religious, under the direction and prefecture of Friar Giovanni Francesco da Roma, a person of rare qualities and singular goodness, practical in apostolic ministry and very eager for the salvation of souls, in which work he has been usefully engaged before.

I beg your Majesty, in the name of the same Sacred Congregation, of which I am presently Prefect, that by an act of your generosity and greatness you would please accept this gesture and show favour to these religious, son that, with the favours and help of your Majesty, they can experience the effects of your great goodness, hoping that, considering the generous and most pious thoughts of your Majesty for the spiritual good and salvation of your people, his Divine Majest;y may be please to increase notably your prosperity and greatness, to which I humbly pay reverence. From Rome. Signed.

22-6-1656 Giovanni Francesco da Roma to Propaganda Fide: on being prevented from going

Most Illustrious and Reverend Lord and my most observant [Prone. mio Oss.mo??].

Since your most Illustrious Lordship asked me to put in writing what has transpired in Lisbon regarding the mission of Benin, and it is my obligation to obey not only your commands but every minimal indication, I must tell your most Illustrious Lordship that, after disembarking in Lisbon with all the missionary fathers, I was conducted with them [con esso loro?] to a principal minister of that kingdom by the name of Pedro Fernando Montero. When he saw so many religious, he asked us in more than a harsh manner where we came from, who sent us, and why we had disembarked in that city. I answered these questions, saying that we came from Italy, sent by His Holiness Pope Alexander VII and by the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith to go to the kingdom of Benin to work for the salvation of those poor souls. He answered that they did not need foreign religious for this purpose, since they had plenty enough in their own kingdom. He added, "Does your Paternity carry a brief from His Holiness for our King, or a letter of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith?" I said that I carried a letter from the Most Eminent Lord Cardinal Orzino, and from the most Serene Lord Duke of Bracciano for his Majesty. This man then burst into a great rage. "So," he said, " the Supreme Pontiff and the Lord Cardinals send here so many religious to go to our conquests and do not deign to write two lines to our King?" I replied that last year His Majesty wrote to his Most Eminent Cardinal Orsino, saying that any time the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith sent religious who were not subjects of Spain to go to his conquests, he would allow them to go. Since the Lord Cardinal Orsino of the same Congregation is the Protector of the Portuguese Crown, the Most Eminent Lord Cardinals thought it good to entrust this matter to His Eminence. Therefore he himself wrote to His Majesty. The minister was not much satisfied with this reason, and ordered all of us to retire to the hospice of the French Capuchins. None of us were to dare go out without first informing his Majesty and getting his permission to go out.

After two days he sent for me, ordering me to bring him the letters for His Majesty. I obeyed as I was ordered, and when I said that I desired to present them by my own hand, he said that this was not possible, but he was the one to do so. Later he called me aside and began to open up the great feeling that he and that whole kingdom had in seeing themselves so abandoned (to use his own term) by the Apostolic See. "Are we not," he said, "sons of the Holy Church just like other Catholic Christians? Why do the Supreme Pontiffs not want to recognize us as such and show themselves as our fathers and pastors? They look after the salvation of the blacks and of gentiles, sending them your Paternities for that purpose, while they have no concern for our own salvation. What kind of disordered zeal is this? They should first try to provide spiritual help for our souls, and then those of the gentiles. We see that it is already over 16 years since King Don Juan was acclaimed king of Portugal. In the whole kingdom there are only two bishops, and these already very old. The churches and the faithful suffer much for being deprived for so long a time of their pastors. A thousand vices and sins have crept in, not only among the laity but also among the clergy. There have been so many appeals for help from the Apostolic See for bishops, but it has never been possible to obtain them. To whom, then, can we turn for help? We were resolved to have a statue of St. Peter made and have our King profess obedience to it, then elect bishops by natural law and have them consecrated by those who remain alive. We will in fact act on this resolution if the Supreme Pontiff does not now receive our ambassador and does not grant us bishops as we ask for. Is it possible that the patience, subjection to and reverence of our King for the Apostolic See is not recognized? Who have you ever read about has been as perseverant in obedience to the Holy Church as he, in spite of so many rebuffs and refusals that he has received? But our King has always been solid and firm and has never showed a sign of resentment for all that he has been denied. They say that this Pontiff is a holy man, and we take him as such. If we have hoped for spiritual cosolation during any pontificate, it is during this one. Because of the great holiness on his part and the great justice on our part, we believe that he will look on us with pious eyes and will show him self a universal Father, recognizing even us as his sons. As far as the temporal considerations of the King of Spain, leave that to us. We have the people and the arms to defend ourselves. Let him help us spiritually; we ask for nothing more."

To this discourse I replied that I had the same home, and so did everyone else who knew the great holiness of the Supreme Pontiff and the many merits of King Don Juan all the more because when leaving Rome and going to receive his holy blessing and presented to him the great need of the kingdom of Portugal and its conquests for spiritual help, I found him so willing and eager to give him every possible help, that I was confident that in a short time the King and everyone else would be fully consoled.

The feeling of this minister was shown to me by many others when I was negotiating about our mission, and I recognized in all such a great change of mind that they seemed to be ready to jump into the abyss of desperation. What is so strong and general among the great and small, the nobles and commoners, is a certain aversion to the Holy Apostolic See and the whole Roman Court, making it very clear that the whole kingdom is in great danger of being alienated from the true Faith and being totally perverted.

But to come back to our mission, the King of Portugal, although there was an old decree to send foreign missionaries under the leadership of Portuguese religious, nevertheless, knowing that we were sent by His Holiness and by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, and since he wanted us to go to Benin and to please His Holiness and the Sacred Congregation, he decided that we should continue our journey in the way we had been sent, and he contributed by his royal liberality our transport and all that was necessary.

With such a gift, I was told by a royal minister of great authority that it had been decided that if the ambassador in Rome was not received by His Holiness, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faiths should not try to send a single missionary to the Portuguese conquests, since they would not only refuse them a passport, but would not even let them disembark to land. Since a few of the assigned missionaries were not present and such a threat was made, I judged it well to come here to Rome to receive the order of the Sacred Congregation about what should be done to maintain the mission. This is all I can tell your Illustrious Lordship, to which, finally, I make most humble reverence, wishing you from heaven every true good. To your Illustrious and Reverend Lordship.

From our convent, 22 June 1656,
Your very humble and devout servent in the Lord,
Friar Giovanni Francesco da Roma, Capuchin.

Bonaventura da Firenze: How the faith first entered Warri

Among the many kingdoms that are found in Africa, eight degrees north of the equator are two in particular: Benin and Warri, both unbelieving, where the Portuguese go with their ships every two or three years to carry on trade in slaves and other merchandise that these kingdoms offer. One of the times that a ship was sent to Warri for the usual tradethe king for a long time had anxiously waited for such an occasion to send his son to Lisbon so as to surpass by far the government of the king of Benin, his neighbouring enemy; it is said that there is no kingdom like it in all Africa, so resembling the political laws of us Europeansand he took this occasion to recommend the boy and entrust him to the protection of that captain. When the latter finishes his trading, he found that proposal much to his satisfaction and took the boy from Warri to Lisbon, which in that time was annexed to the Crown of Spain. When he arrived, he entrusted this prince to the Governess of that city and kingdom, who received the boy with the honours and respect corresponding to his status, with the untold joy of all that people. Entrusting him to the care of respectful persons, she commanded them to instruct him in the Christian religion and [to baptize him] when he showed some inclination towards that, as so happened, for on hearing his first lessons, he applied himself so well that in a short time he asked to be baptized. When that request was heard he was ordered to be catechized so as to be baptized in due time. When he was made Christian, then, with the name of Anthony or David, if I am not mistaken, the Governess gave a detailed account to His Majesty of what had transpired. When He heard it all, he ordered the boy to be brought to Madrid, whose Crown received him with propr signs of piety and Christian religion. After dismissing him enriched with precious gifts, he sent him to Lisbon with the order that at his expenses he should not only be provided with a palace and servants but, much more, with experienced teachers who would stabilize him in his new Faith and teach him sciences, all of which he perfectly mastered when he grew to adulthood. As he turned out, he was regarded as a worthy subject of the dignity that the bishop offered him, but he refused, judging it better to return to his kingdom married, so as to propagate the Catholic Faith there. When he manifested his intentions and thoughts, those in charge of his person decided to obtain for him a white lady as wife, who would be endowed with virtue and a fervent good will that would more than match thast of her husband. That was a very difficult task, because it was hard to find a noble white woman who would not refuse to marry a black man. That is especially true dealing with a Portuguese lady, since the Portuguese think there is no city in the world that can compare with Lisbon. Such a woman would have of her own accord to undertake to leave a delightful kingdom to imprison herself for life in another one which is the prototype of horrors and miseries.

Then (by the efficacy of God's arm), after all their efforts to find such a woman came to nothing, unexpectedly a bastard daughter of the Count of Feria offered herself for this sacrament. She was touched by a divine impulse, not by human persuasions, and prostrating at the feet of the Count, her father, she told him that God was calling her to such a state to accomplish in this way the hidden thoughts that she had nursed in her heart from childhood, to commit herself to die for our Faith. When her father heard her plan, he fell half dead because of the contrast between his fatherly love and the divine inspirations of his daughter. But coming to his senses, he recognized clearly that it would be unspeakable to oppose the divine decrees. So he not only kindly consented but, when the departure of the newly weds approached, he provided them at his expense with a ship well stocked with riches, necessary provisions and service for such a long trip, all to the universal pleasure of the Court and the whole city.

The thing that concerned the prince and princess most was to be provided with a priest who would serve as their pastor who, with priestly authority and example of his life, would meet their desires to implant the Faith in that kingdom. Provided with a priest, they brought him along with them.

All that I am telling I have read in manuscripts at Lisbon or heard from various persons etc.

The voyage went smoothly and they disembarked at Warri, where anyone could imagine the inexpressible satisfaction with which the old king received his son, and his surprise at seeing him accompanied by such a beautiful white lady and many other people never seen in that kingdom. For their arrival a large crowd of people gathered to honour their queen with their traditional feasts, which are so extravagant and outlandish that no one could believe it if he did not see it. I have seen them several times, and I do not have the courage to describe them. In the midst of this celebration the son constantly tried to persuade the old king regarding the salvation of his soul, which would not be possible without receiving holy baptism. Since the son had also become a Christian for this purpose, his efforts were not in vain, and in a short time the father converted and was baptized. Shortly after his being catechized the Divine Majesty, who had chosen him from eternity, was pleased to transfer him to his kingdom.

At his death, this firstborn son was installed as king. After taking possession of it with the queen, his wife, their main undertaking was to multiply the number of the faithful, having them baptized and taught the observances of our law. But either because of the sins of that people or some other inscrutable designs of God, before a year the queen died in childbirth, together with her child. Because of that loss the four women whom she had brought with her as servants became so sorrowful that they followed her in a short time. It was truly a great sorrow to see the king, who shortly before was completely turned to the observance of the law of God, now, in the absence of the queen, began to prevaracate honesty, in spite of the preaching of the good priest who finally tired of trying to dissuade him. He took on a multitude of black women, according to the traditional custom, and had four male and four female children, all of whom were baptized by that priest, but they were not perfectly catechized or taught our Faith. So the supreme God, since this king was ungrateful for such benefits and abused his calls and the holy sacraments, deprived him of his spiritual doctor by taking away the life also of the priest. The stubborn king stopped at this latest strike from Heaven and returned to his senses, recognizing with unveiled eyes how ugly and dirty was his poor soul. He therefore disbanded the women of his seraglio and with continuous tears continuously made up for the evils with which he had scandalized all that kingdom. And while he continued to offer the sweet-smelling incense of penance before the Uncreated Majesty, God miraculously provided him with a Canon from São Tomé. A sea captain who had come for his normal trading had brought him as a chaplain, although he did not usually bring a chaplain when going to those kingdoms. This provision was then considered a work of divine providence, so that the king, who in the past had sought the salvation of so many others, would not remain deprived of the necessary help and priestly power, especially at the end of his life, which was a few days after the arrival of that ship.

It is a custom in those kingdoms after the death of the kings, that the chiefs of both houses elect the firstborn son as king, if he is not disqualified by some serious misdemeanour. If there are not sons, the kingship goes to the closest blood relation.

But since this king had four sons, they elected the firstborn, called Matthias, who is now living. At that time he was seven or eight years old. Since he was so small, he kept the title, but the electors actually governed for the space of nine years. That Canon of São Tomé, whom God had sent for the meantime to help for the salvation not only of the deceased king but also for those poor souls, his subjectswho in a short time had themselves also transgressed the precepts of continence and done every other wronginstead of reviving them, gave himself up to greedy interests. He commanded all who wanted to be baptized to wanted from him any other priestly service to give him so many slaves, elephant tusks or other things. As he publicly declared at the altar, he would not otherwise provide his priestly service. The people resented that pretension and considered it too hard; so they all rioted. That was also because they were scandalized by other things he was doing. Their reaction was not because of their high intelligence but because when it comes to their own interests they can be the instructors of any Europeans. So, being totally disgusted with him, they stopped having themselves baptized. For that reason the use of the other sacraments was discontinued for many years, and hardly a trace of Christianity was left. When that Portuguese captain who brought the priest was about to depart, he was called by the upper assembly to their council place where they told him that he or others could return any time they wanted, but they should not bring with them ever again such priests; otherwise they would refuse to trade with him. When the captain understood everything, he promised them he would observe their honourable commands and, thanking them with the greatest respect, he departed, dissatisfied with that priest, especially since, as I was told, among the black slaves left alive, that cleric put on board a greater profit than the layman. When the ship reached São Tomé and the Canons of that Chapter saw the great profit that this man brought back in so short a time, they became most anxious to go themselves to Warri, under the pretext of maintaining the faith, that they made a petition to the Governor and tried to arrange their trip. But the Governor, informed of everything by the captain, severely reprimanded them, threatening to report them to His Majesty. So that kingdom was left entirely deprived of evangelical ministers.

When the chiefs, who were governing for the meantime, saw that Matthias was about eighteen, they handed over the full kingship to him, giving him a report of what happened to set the Faith back and how his father was a Christian etc. (as explained above). He replied like someone who was of superior intelligent and not at all inferior to his father, that he did not want to be unequal to him in zeal for our Catholic Faith. He once heard of the great progress that some religious had made in Congo and nearby kigdoms. Having inquired from a Portuguese sea captain who they were and from which religious institute, the captain answered that from what he knew of them and their appearance in Lisbon and in Angola, these were religious of St. Francis, commonly called Capuchins, whose role kept them far from every worldly interest and occupied with the universal salvation of souls; they were sent by His Holiness, the Vicar of Christ on earth, at the request of the very king of congo. When King Matthias heard this story, his desire was so burning that he asked the captain to teach him how to obtain them. He answered that for such a matter it was necessary to write a request to the Pope and the Sacred Congregation and to send the letters to the Governor of São Tomé, with a secure address; he added that the king of Congo followed the same procedure when he requested for these religious. The zealous king did not delay in carrying out what he heard and writing to Rome, entrusting the letters to the same captain when he returned to São Tomé.

When this petition reached the Sacred Congregation, an order was given to the Most Reverend Father Commissar General of the Capuchins to provide a mission of thirteen religious to be sent to the kingdoms of Warri and Benin. It was easy for him to select these, because of the large number of friars, which includes many who volunteer for such projects, I myself being one of them. In a short time they were all sent the usual mandates, with an order to assemble at Livorno, where Most Reverend Father Giovanni Francesco Romano was waiting for us, having been assinged as our Prefect, a Father with previous experience in the missions of Congo.

When we all reached that port, we boarded an English ship of 40 pieces of artillery. We set off with the wind behind us and in a few hours of smooth sailing we gave our last goodby to beautiful Italy. We reached the beach of Malaga, where we anchored, waiting for good weather to pass through the straits of Gibraltar. Hardly had we done so that we met three enemy ships from Dunkirk, each of which was at least as powerful as ours. But such a disadvantageous meeting did not make our brave captain lose heart. Giving orders to fight, he declared that it was better and more honorable to die fighting than to set fire to the ship and burn oneself to death in despair. We we heard his plan, we fell prostrate in prayer, imploring the Divine Clemency for an escape from such an imminent danger of death. When the ships drew near enough to shoot, there remained only to begin a terrible tragedy. But the most kind God, who guided us, suddenly moved the wind from being contrary to our favour, and being in a position of having the wind carry us away, we miraculously escaped them, having had time to come back to the safety of the canons of the fort of Tangier. The same captain, even though a heretic, confessed that such a miracle happened only by means of the prayers of us religious.

This fort at that time belonged to the king of Portugal. When we disembarked the governor put us up with every kindness the full three days that we stayed there. This place is most important for being of itself almost impregnable, since it is built on a site in the ocean, near the mouth of the above-mentioned strait on the Barbary side, so that no ship can pass from the ocean to the Mediterranean nor vice versa without being detected there. Today, by God's permission for our sins, it is in the possession of the English, who hold in their hands the keys of the gate of these two seas. Setting sail again, our pilot directed the prow for the Cape of St. Vincent. Passing that easily, in a few days we entered the bar of Lisbon. From there we went to our hospice, so as to appear in due time before that Crown, showing it the decrees of our assignments, so as to ask for passage. When we finally got there, we received a kind of greeting in these very words:

God help me! The Pope has more care for black souls than white ones, such as us Portuguese. Enough!

He commandus to go back to the hospice and not to go out of there without a new order from him. After two months of this imprisonment we sent a memorandum asking him either to give us passage or to let us return to Italy. A reply said that the Court of Portugal is not used to concluding its affairs so suddenly and, as religious, we should have patience. Along with that came permission to go out in the city, which left the streets open for us to negotiate more easily, as in fact happened. since our Father Prefect spoke to the principle ministers of the Court who consult with His Majesty, they decided for reasons of politics and state to send him back, offering us in his place a Portuguese religious of another order. At such a turnabout eight missionaries decided to return to Italy with their Father Prefect, so that only four of us were left. After overcoming by patience the obstacles and difficulties, four months later we were given leave to go.

A short while later we had the chance of going on a certain ship which was headed for São Tomé and the two kingdoms to which we were assigned. We thought it good not to lose such a good coincidence, certainly sent to us by Heaven's providence, since rarely do ships go directly to those places. When the time for departure came, all four of us, not just satisfied but happy, began our trip, heading first for the Canaries. Passing them, we went on to Sierra Leone. After ascertaining the coast we went out to sea and continued for many days, when the pilot decided to go in and ascertain the land. It should be noted that on this coast there are ordinarily very vast currents from one side to the other. Ships in them even traveling at full sail with the wind in the rear most often find themselves going backwards many leagues. On the other hand, ships going out to high sea are at risk of not reaching the island of São Tomé. Therefore our pilot, who was experienced, after going out somewhat returned to discern the land. After going out again we discovered the Malaghetta Coast, which we approached as closely as possible and sent a boat ashore to get water from that river. When that people saw that our boat wanted to land, they sent out about 30 armed canoes to capture it and eat its crew, as is their custom, but we shot four pieces of artillery. Frightened, they returned to the mouth of the river where they hid and watched what we were going to do, which was to continue our journey to Cape Palmas. After passing that we recognized Cape Corso. The Swedes have a mediocre fort there. Then we came to the coast of St. George of Elmina. This also has a fort which is quite mighty. Many years ago the Dutch took it from the Spanish and today it is ill equipped for no other reason than the wish to pay more attention to trading with the neighbouring kingdoms than to govern it well. This place is highly esteemed by the Dutch both for the exchanges they may of their products, even if of little value, for gold, and for the river itself which serves it. The people are all black and infidels. At the time the Crown of Spain ruled there were most devoted Christians, but now they mourn their slavery which they involuntarily suffer, seeing themselves abandoned by the Catholics.

Resuming the journey, the pilot, who could not send a boat ashore to São Tomé because of the strong contrary current, decided to head for Cape Lupo, where we arrived after 18 days of sailing. This place is ruled by a gentile black man who has himself addressed as "pope". He is a very big old man whose manners are so horrible that religious modesty does not allow me to describe it. Many ships usually dock there, Dutch, English and Portuguese, to take on fresh water, fruits and other products of the country, especially the many elephant tusks that come from there. After taking on the same provisions and other gods, we sailed for the island of São Tomé, on a trip of only 60 leagues. When we arrived there, the people, who had never seen the Capuchin habit, received us with extraordinary joy. Even the Portuguese who are there took us in in their usual Portuguese way.

This island is about 60 leagues in circumference, with a very bad and harmful climate, since part of it is south of the equator. It is almost entirely mountainous. Among the mountains there is one like that of the Great Canary which seems to reach the first region of the air and is covered with verious sorts of trees, some of them so enormously big that from one trunk they make canoes so large that they can hold two to three hundred persons each. On the western side the climate is more mild, with many hills which produce a lot of sugar cane, but not of the quality as that of Brazil. There are fifteen mills to process it. There is also an abundance of every sort of meat, such as cows, sheep and domestic pigs; The sheep and goats bear three, four or five young at a time. There are plenty of chickens and birds; I have seen wild pidgeons and doves which I have not seen elsewhere, excet a few of which in Brazil. Besides, there are many bush fowl which are large, beautiful and similar to our pheasants, and another kind of bird called rolas, which are good and fat like our doves. There are plenty of lemon, orange and cedar trees, with a few European fruits such as grapes and figs. There are no lions, tigers or elephants, but a few civet cats from which musk is extracted, and different kinds of monkeys. Today this island is subject to the Crown of Portugal, which sends an officer every three years to govern it. The city is sited on a bay of the sea under the hills mentioned above and is of moderate size, with a large expanse of sea in front of it. The houses are all wooden, but well constructed. Many of them, in height and workmanship are equal to houses in Europe. The cathedral is built of stone and has a chapter of twelve canons; there are other churches as well, but no religious. This clergy lives (as live all the blacks of the Portuguese conquests) without bishops; so sensual liberty is great and consciences are dulled, leaving the service of God in a state that anyone can surmise. The governor has his residence in the fort, which is made of stone with four ramparts and located on a promontory an artillery shot away from the city. It is not very strong, as experience has shown when the Dutch easily took it when it was under the Crown of Spain. This island serves (as generally all Portugal's conquests) to purge Portugal of rogues and criminals, both men and women, who were condemned to death but given life confinement by his Majesty, as he does in all his conquests. All the white inhabitants are such people or their descendants; they number about forty families. The rest of black natives, in all about two thousand.

After staying fifteen or twenty days in this place and unloading the cargo destined for the island, our captain provided twenty-five black men experienced in traveling to Benin and Warri, especially two who are called conductors; the Portuguese pay each of them seven slaves to conduct the ships to those kingdoms. While we were preparing for the next departure, God permitted two of us to get sick. I and my companion were stunned, although not for this reason but because we knew that the harvest was great and we were few and weak workers. Nevertheless our Lord warmed our hearts, though we could not now accomplish the undertaking we had begun, which was to die for Jesus Christ. After providing everything that was necessary to treat the serious illness of our two companions, who cried much because they could not follow us, we sadly left them and set sail at the hour of Vespers. The next evening we reached the island of Principe. This isalnd was subject to a Portuguese lord and is about twenty leagues in circumference. Later it came under the governor of São Tomé, who removes or appoints the Captain Major, as they call the subject who is appointed to govern the few people who live there. The island is all mountainous, pleasant and covered with very beautiful grass because of the abundance of very good water. It has all kinds of fruits, such as are found in Guinea, and plenty of meat, except for cows. Its rice is not as good as Italian rice. Civet cats are so many that some Portuguese keep forty or fifty and have become rich from the musk that they extract. The people of that island have plenty of work because of the numerous monkeys of every sort, which not only damage the countryside but also enter houses by night, where they break, eat or steal everything that they find, as is the habit of these animals. No one could believe how many they are, not even myself, unless he saw them. Everyone holds that they are an extraordinary punishment of God, because these people asre more dedicated and devoted to the synagogue than to our churches, as are most of the Portuguese who live in the conquests.

After finishing our business we set sail again for the north, where after fifteen days we reached a beach of white sand. After verifying the country we headed for the great river of Benin, whose waters are bloody in colour because they run over red land. Since the current is so fast, the pilot had to go out to sea again, since he saw that it would be impossible to cross, even though he was only three leagues from the mouth of the river. Then he turned again towards land and progressed, always measuring the depth of the water, until we reached the bar which we were to cross and enter the lagoon. But because the hour was late and the tide was receding, we were forced to go out and try again the next day. When the tide was in our favour, the pilot handed over the ship to the two conductors, who immediately ordered the ship to lift anchor. They placed one sailor on the prow and another in the middle with a plumb in hand; measuring in this way we crossed the bar. For a half mile it is often very dangerous to cross because of the amount of sand that the currents create, forming various barricades, so that if the ships do not have experienced conductors they are lost. Finally, with the help of God and of the most Blessed Virgin, whose intercession we implored on our knees, we successfully crossed and entered the lagoon and thereupon gave them them due thanks. I think this lagoon is long and wide up to forty miles; it is delightful to look at, because it has two small islands covered with different kinds of trees. All around the lagoon is crowned with huge and very tall trees and from every part of it come wide and deep rivers of fresh water without stones, each three, four or five miles apart, more or less. All of them lead to different localities or provinces of those kingdoms, according to the route of the ships. Our conductor went up that river which leads to Warri, the mouth of which marks the beginning of his kingdom. There there is a little island standing out from the others, inhabited by a few families of blacks; whenever a ship arrives they send a canoe to give news of it to the king. Note that, since the kingdom of Benin is eight degrees north of the equator, while Luango is eight degrees south of it, this whole distance is like a sea of fresh water, full of islands, some of which are so low that they are flooded by the tide and are therefore uninhabitable. They are all full of trees which have the peculiarity that when they become so tall they send out from their branches pointed shoots without leaves that naturally search for water. They sink their points into the mud, take root and form new trees. The blacks use these points to make salt. There are other more elevated islands which the tide does not cover and are more or less inhabited. These are of different sizes and shapes, some as large as four, six or 20 miles in circumference, while some are round, others square, others narrow or long or in other shapes. They ar almost all surrounded by a kind of fine fern four or five arms tall, like lauro regio, with its leaves so equal and well adjusted that at first you would think it was artificial rather than natural. Between these islands run the rivers mentioned above, which are as wide as the islands are distant from one another, so that the whole country forms a labyrinth in water, making it very difficult to be sure of the way in those countries. From one island to another fly very many birds with so many different and beautiful feathers that they astound the viewer. Yet they have no pleasant song, but just an annoying and depressing croak. There are many parrots different from those of Brazil which are mostly green; these are ash-coloured with a scarlet tail. In these rivers you can see many very large and fierce crocodiles. I saw a dead one which was 16 palms long. Besides, many hippopotamuses can be seen. There are many kinds of fish, one of which is called mulher, which in our language means "woman", so called because it has breasts and other natural parts like a woman and it undergoes the same menstruation. I have only seen two of these fish, three arms long. Sometimes they go to graze on the grass, like the hippopotomuses, on the banks of these rivers. When this fish is cooked in any way it tastes better than any pork. The Portuguese especially appreciate its ribs, from which they make crowns and beads which they tie on the arm or elsewhere and claim that they can stop bleeding; they are also good for sciatic pains, cramps and the like.

Continuing our journey in this intricate laberinth towards the kingdom of Warri, after traveling six continuous days we finally arrived where our ship was bound for its business. The regular captain who was in charge of disembarking, like a good Portuguese, did not want to miss this opportunity to show himself as such. When we had decided to go in procession from the port to the palace of the king, he asked us to permit him to carry a large crucifix, which was brought for the service of the mission. Receiving permission, he took it right away and began the procession barefooted, while we followed him in surplice, singing the Te Deum. We reached the palace accompanied by a huge crowd of people, where the king was waiting for us on his throne in the first courtyard. When we got there he embraced us with incredible joy and reverence. After we greeted him in return he had us accompanied to the house he had ordered for our accommodation.

After resting a few days, we returned for a private audience, in which we fully informed him how the Pope was pleased to show him favour, and for this reason send us to serve him and his whole kingdom with regard to the salvation of souls. He replied with all submission, thanking the Pontiff for such a great favour, and thanking us who went through such mortal dangers and suffered so much labour in so long a trip. He gave us full authority with regard to his person and the whole kingdom to exercise the duty of apostolic missionaries, so as to bring back their faith to its pristine state. Then he ordered the church of God, which was located in a courtyard of the palace and was almost completely in ruins, to be rebuilt. When that was done be began to baptize, catechise and officiate at the sacrifices of the Church and other functions, such as teaching Christian doctrine. Our work was easy, because the people have a natural instinct to do what they see their chief do, and his intention was that they should receive the Faith, as said above. It was not easy, however, to teach them, because of their dullness in learning the Faith. This was easy enough to overcome, but it was very difficult to persuade them to abandon polygamy and their superstitions. Nevertheless, with time many, including some chiefs, were brought around and they had their wedding in the Church. After nine months, while we were cultivating the vineyard of the Lord, our captain finished his business and returned to São Tomé. With the people free from the temporal business of the departed ship, we were freeer to sow the word of the Gospel not only in the city but throughout the kingdom. In the course of four years the majority of the people, if not all, were brought to the Faith. They burned a huge number of their idols, and during the burning horrible explosions were heard. The concern that martyred us inwardly was to uproot completely the poisonous roots of polygamy. As we preached about this all day, exhorting one person after another to have a true marriage, many replied: "Why not have the king properly married?" When we heard this, we resolved to persuade him also to do so. He answered us, whether by a diabolical suggestion or for some other reason, that he would get married only to a white woman; otherwise any future attempt to persuade him would be useless; he added that this is what his father had done. To such a reply we tried our best to let him understand that such a proposal was difficult to arrange. Yet we turned to God with very fervent prayer and commended to him such a serious and important matter. As Heaven would have it, a Portuguese ship asrrived from São Tomé for the usual trade and, talking to the captain we discussed the feelings of the king. Encouraging us, he said that such a matter was very feasible and that in São Tomé he could arrange it, adding that we should take heart and build up the king's hopes, since he would be happy about this. When the ship was to depart and arrangements were concluded with the king, I was sent by him to São Tomé (leaving my companion behind), taking for this purpose a letter for the Governor and his chapter containing such a petition. There, after ten months, the most Blessed Virgin did me the favour of finding a well-born woman twenty years old. After clearing every difficulty that she had, she gave her assent to the Captain, her uncle. He and her relatives also agreed, so that the whole island jubilated. When it was time for her to depart, we went on board with a trousseau of many vestments and gifts. She was led by her uncle with the pomp that is usual on such occasions, especially this one, since an ordinasry person ascended to the rank of a queen. At our departure the Governor and all the other Portuguese told me how grateful they were for the honour and usefulness of this marriage, to which I had contributed. When we entered the sea, the fort fired many artillery shots in salute to the bride as a queen. After a pleasant sailing we arrived one day near to Warri, where we sent a boat with my letters to the king, giving him a report of everything, so that he could prepare to welcome her. When he received the letters, he immediately sent the chiefs of his upper council to be his ambassadors in the meeting. When we arrived we were welcomed with no less solemnity than the late Countess of Faria received. At this marriage of the king, all those were convinced who had excused themselves because they did not see their prince married, and this misrable people made progress every day without difficulty in the observance of our Law.

Then we thought it would be good to move on to Benin, so as to obey the Papal orders and satisfy our consciences. Since we knew that the king would not give us permission, we said we wanted to go to Colûma to open a mission there; this is a land between the two kingdoms. Obtaining this permission with some difficulty, we left and there baptized and catechized many people, trusting in the arm of God, without any fear, and with letters of recommendation from that governor to a Benin chief who was his relative. We entered the large city and were courteously received by him. He helped us in our intention of getting an audience, but as our hopes gradually came to nothing and it seemed clear we would not be able to talk to him. Therefore, so as not to waste time completely, we returned to Warri. After some days a Dutch ship arrived. We, because they were heretics, protested to the king not to let them in or permit them to trade; otherwise we would depart with the next Portuguese ship. After hearing his reasons, we permitted him that time; so the ship came and went. After two years another Portuguese ship came from São Tomé, as one does every two years for trade. Its captain was a wicked man; hardly had he landed when he requested the king for two young girls for his service, and he never went to Mass. When we learned this, we gave him a stern correction, since by such sins he was knocking to the ground all our work. When we pointed out to him the gravity of the scandal that he was publicly giving, he despised us, and the people who saw this reproached us for permitting to the whites such a great excess, while we threatened them with punishment from Heaven for such transgressions. Seeing that there was no chance of reform in him we were forced to excommunicate him. He, worse than before, tore up the excommunication in public and in every way opposed us; at his own time God dealt with him. This dissolute man then used gifts to get some of his subordinates like himself to join him and they secretly put together a case full of lies, saying that we had written to the governor of Elmina so that he would sen us the Dutch ship. And were we had protested against it, he imputed the contrary to us. He declared us in this way untrustworthy and contrary to the Crown of Portugal. Such misrable people use this means in many countries to stir up jealousy and ruin poor foreign religious.

In this work I caught a bad sickness, and to cure it I was compelled to take the occasion to return to Sao Tomé. My companion wanted to follow me to see if he could learn for what reason Rome had never answered our many letters and did not send us religious to help us, as it had promised. So I asked the captain if he would take us, and immediately he did us the favour, even though the king with the peole did not want to be deprived us us. Because of his reluctance, to show him that we wished to return, we left behind a box of priestly vestments. We sailed and arrived at São Tomé, and immediately the captain went on land to inform and present the case to the Governor, without our knowledge. When the Governor heard what was going on, he sent for the Vicar General of the Chapter and handed over to him the whole case. He placed us religious in his hands along with those of all his clergy, who only wanted to see us out of those kingdoms because of their interests spoken of above. Although we were innocent, they abused us to our face, telling us that the marriage of the queen was null and that our assignments were forgeries. With such insults they spread the accusation that we were guilty of lèse majesté, and instead of condemning the captain, they separated us from one another like prisoners and put guards at our doors, forbidding anyone to speak to us under penalty of excommunication. In this way, after four months we had nearly died of hunger and from other sufferings, when they sent us to Lisbon, handing us over as prisoners to that captain and ordering us to our face that if we had complained they would have put irons on our feet.

Arriving in Lisbon, the captain handed us over with the case to Senhor Fernando Montero, principal minister of inquiry for his Majesty. This man gave us a solemn talk and ordered us to go back to our hospice and not to go out without his order. While obeying him, we sent a memorandum to the Queen, who was governing at that time, indicating the need we had to talk with her. She, as a Spaniard, very kindly granted us this favour and ordered that we should come for an audience at our convenience. Going there, we told her with all humility and reverence about our present persecution, adding that what the infidels and idolaters did not do to us, that we received at the hands of her Portuguese. We asked her to investigate well, and if she found us guilty of what they accused us of we were ready to have our heads cut off, but if not we asked for a passport to return to Rome to the feet of His Holiness, to tell him how apostolic missionaries are treated by such a nation. At such words the Queen was moved almost to tears; she asked us to leave, saying that she would call for us when she had investigated the matter. This she did, since within three days she ordered us to come back for an audience, since she had recognized from the rescript of the case the very manifest calumny. She began to cry and told us absolutely to get rid of the idea of going back to Italy, since she did not like that, but we should prepasre to return to our missions. She would have us accompanied with such honourable despatches that for the future not only would me meet no trouble but peoplel would honour us as they would her own person; besides, the calumniators would not go unpunished for such an excessive crime. At her great kindness and zeal for the Catholic Religion, we were so moved that, to meet better the glorious intentions of God's Majesty which he ordained from eternity, we decided to expose our lives once more to death. She gave us our despatches with 148 cruçiados for the journey. Besides, she gave us letters for that Governor and the Vicar, in which she summoned them to Lisbon, having already appointed a new governor to that post. Leaving for Angola, we took the route for Cape Verde, where we stayed ten days. We set sail again and, without seeing land, came opposite Rio Plata. Because of the obvious danger of contrary winds and many storms we nearly went past the Cape of Good Hope for Goa or Mozambique. Since we had been sailing for four months and were dismayed at the lack of our provisions, God was pleased to console us. He sent us a wind so favourable that in a short time he made us discover land at Cape St. Catherine, which is three degrees to the north, under the Cape of Good Hope. From there we went out in search of Cape Negro, and from there continued along the coast, a gunshot away from land, until Angola. When we arrived there we found a ship which was about to depart for São Tomé, and gave its captainthe letters of the Queen for the Governor and Vicar. Besides, we communicated to him our honourable despatches. When these letters arrived to the subjects in question and the people found out, they were suddenly aroused with great joy, both for learning of our justification and because of our return. Only the Governor and the Vicar and all their accomplices were not happy, because their lie was discovered and they found themselves summoned to Lisbon. But God, who wished to punish them all in the same place where they committed their offence, began with the one who was the origin of it. Within a few days the captain became desperately sick and ended his life unhappily without the most holy sacraments. Two months later the Vicar followed him, suddenly made senseless by a stroke and died without spiritual helps. The other accomplices were struck with death by the divine arm within a year, except for one who, for his grave crimes, was imprisoned by the inquisition of Lisbon. Finally a ship came with the new Governor and took over from the former Governor, Signor Carolo de Napoli. The latter embarked with a case of mor than 100,000 cruçiados which he had gained in five years, thinking himself to be free from the punishment that he merited. He was deceived in the long run, because just as he got to sea, after three days he and a canon and the whole ship were miserably drowned. In this way God dealt with those miserable people. I stayed in Angola over a year waiting for the letters that we had written in Lisbon through Rome, asking those Eminences to help us with other brothers of ours. Seeing that nothing came, I thought it good to go back to Europe on a certain ship that came from the Indies through Brazil. Getting on this ship, I arrived in Brazil, stopping at Rio de Janeiro and then at Bahia. There I changed ship and came to Pernambuch, where I waited six months for the fleet. When it arrived I sent to Lisbon, where I stayed a while and then returned to Livorno.


Its size and location

This kingdom is located in water and is formed of many islands, with some continental territory. The residence of the king is on the largest and most important island, which is about twenty-five or thirty leagues in circumference. It is neither mountainous nor flat, but hilly and full of trees and bushes. There are not more than four or five populatio centres, but the main town is moderately large, having twelve or fourteen thousand souls. It is located on the bank of a large river and has a very bad climate and air. The houses are all made of palm branches, on ground level without upper stories, each separated from the next, so that if one catches fire, as often happens, the fire can more easily be put out. They are all in a row, so that the streets are straight. They have no windows facing the public, but the entrance of each house leads to a courtyard which is large or small depending on the status of those who live there. Around the courtyard are their rooms. Since these are small they are lighted by their doors and as well by their roofs which are constructed so as to leave a space of two palms between the roof and the top of the mud or straw wall.

Description of the king's palace

The palace of the king is located at the head of a large square that goes right down to the river; it comprises eight courtyards, five of which any one is free to enter, while the others are guarded because they are for the use of the king. Within these is his apartment with another large courtyard around which are the rooms of his women, who are about thirty or more; no one may enter there under penalty of death, except their mothers, relatives and some women who are appointed to serve there. The king never goes out of the palace, and in the seven years I was there I only saw him go out three times, on the occasion of a procession which they held. At thast time, and when he creates chiefs or receives ambassadors from the surrounding kingdoms he dresses richly in Portuguese style. When he is in council or gives a public audience he wears over his naked body only a tunic of white linen with large sleeves like those of monks. With a small white cap on his head and sandals without socks, he holds in his hand a very beautiful sheath with two long knives, the handles of which are decorated with emeralds and rubies. At the times he is not busy and is relaxing in the house he wears a wrapper of cotton or linen cloth from the waist to mid-calf.

His wealth

The wealth of this king consists only of slaves, elephant tusks, palm or cotton cloth that his women weave, just as most women of the town do, but those made in the palace are reputed to be of better workmanship.

His power

Regarding his military power, he can put in arms 60,000 men, but most of these operate in water with canoes. In the water he is stronger than his neighbouring enemy kingdoms, but not on land, where they are far superior. He has a general and other army officials, but their only arms are poisoned arrows and spears, with a few Dutch muskets. Apart from that, they go entirely naked, painting their faces and much of the waist, with parrot and chicken feathers in their hair and a dagger in hand, lion or panther teeth on strings around their waists, rattles on their arms and legs, and bells and horns. Crying and shouting, they seem more like a band of demons than of men.


The government of this kingdom deplens on the absolute command of the king (I have talked about his election in another report), but with the assistance of two organizations, called the Large Council and the Small. The first is composed of ten or twelve elder and more honourable chiefs of the town, and these with the king settle more serious questions, such as the death penalty, war and similar matters. The Small Council is made up of a large number of other chiefs who assist in public counsels and civil cases. One one of the Large Council dies, the king chooses one of the Small Council at his discretion. There are no cabinets or courts, but only the king with these councils who decide and settle all cases in the following way.

The king sits on his throne in the Council courtyard, while in front of him a naked page holds a shield with his left hand and with his right an unsheathed sword. Two other naked pages assist, one on each side of the throne, holding in their hands a horse tail with which they take turns chasing away the flies and fanning. The king is thus accompanied whenever he appears in public. Then the chiefs of the Large Council sit near him on either side, but on mats on the ground. All the other chiefs of the Small Council sit around the veranda. While the king and council are so arranged, the accused or summoned party appears. When he reaches the king he first prostrates on his knees with his arms extended and his faith on the ground for some time without speaking. Then, getting up on his knees, he picks up dust with both hands and throws plenty of it on his head and face. After making the customary greetings with his hands, he explains his case to the hearing of all. If he obtains what he desires or, if guilty, is acquitted from the accusation, he bows down again as above and dusts himself again, going home happy and content, where he and all his women and relatives paint their faces, chest and arms white, and for eight full days go through the streets dancing and singing the praises of the king and the vindication of their innocence of of the favour they have received.

The principal crimes entailing the death penalty are three: The first, if a man or woman flees to an enemy kingdom and returns of his or her own accord without anything treasonable being discovered, such is treated with some equity. But if the person stays there long and it is known that he has spoken against the person of the king or of the government, if he is caught, he is strangled in the middle of the king's square. There a scaffold is set up, a palm rope is tied to the top bar, the condemned man is made to climb onto a bench an arm's length high, the rope is tied around his neck, and the first person of the palace (which we call a major-domo) pulls away the bench, leaving the man to die miserably in the air with his legs dangling.

If, besides fleeing or talking against the king, the person is convicted of taking up arms against the kingdom and taught the way and gone with canoes against it, if he is caught, they do not try him but put him to death without pity. I have seen this, not without great compassion and tears, unable to do anything about it. One such person arrived and was brought from the river into the square with is hands and feed bound and a piece of round wood in his mouth so that he could not talk. Taking him by the feet, they dragged him to the middle of the square, where a huge number of people had gathered. Each one considered he was doing the king a greater favour the more he defiled the man, both men and women urinating into his mouth. After he was prey to the people for two hours, two black men came from the palace, sent by the king and the council. They came up to the victim, pierced his eyes with two nails as long as a palm, making the points come out on the back of his neck. Then they plunged a stake through his genitals up to his throat, turning it around many times and pulling out some of his inner parts. Not satisfied with that, with a piece of iron used as a bell they broke all his joints, those of his asrms, hands, legs and feet. Lastly they cut off his head, put it on a pole and set it up at the head of the square and, tying a lare piece of wood to his feet, threw the corpse into the river. Truly, barbaric justice!

Anyone who kills a man or woman with iron or other instrument, dies on the gallows as described above.

If anyone is know to have had sex with one of the king's women, they put both to death, bringing them to the bank of the river. But first they are conducted into the presence of the king who reproaches the woman with thousands of bad words for her unconrolled lust and abuse of his favours, and he reproaches the man for his little respect for the royal person. After he angrily throws them out, they are taken to the river, tied hands and feet together, back to back, with a club in the mouth so that they cannot cut [the roaps], and thrown into the river with the usual weight.

If any one is found guilty of sending messages or gifts to these women without the woman's permission or fault, only the man is punished in that way, and the woman is rewarded. There is inverse treatment if she, on the contrary, takes the initiative. The man or woman is more rewarded when such is sollicited and brings an accusation to the king before he knows of it from others. This makes the parties careful and mistrustful of one another.

Other crimes, such as blows with wood and iron, theft, transgressions of laws, disobedience to the king's orders and the like are punished with penalties of paying so many slaves or so much money to the king or by being banished from the place where they were born; this varies according to the gravity of the crimes.


In this kingdom, as in the other parts of Africa, they have no set religion or religious and preachers, as in the East Indies, but are all idolaters. Everyone has a little alcove in his house, as we have oratories or chapels, where they keep various idols of wood made by their hands, mostly with distorted horns, eyes and mouths, so that the more they are deformed the more they are worshipped. They also greatly venerate heads of crocodiles, goats, dry bats, elephant bones, turtle shells and similar vile things. Some worship the sun, others the moon, especially the women, so that when it is out, as long as it is shining in the night, they sing songs accompanied by dances and mingling with men, until it sets. They are all superstitious, since they do not do anything without some superstitious action. For instance, if they are going to eat they first throw a portion on the ground; if they are going to sleep they set up a staff near their head; if they are going to travel or return they always throw something into the river, etc. Besides there are many enchanters and witches who are in communication with the demons. Especially esteemed are those who can divine with this art. People pay them to say whether they will be victorious in war, successful in the business they are undertaking etc. They also turn to these in their sickensses and, although these use herbs and tree roots as medicine, they mix it all with words and signs of incantation. I twice saw an extravagant cure of two who fell from the top of a palm tree to the ground were they were tapping wine. Although they were completely shattered and broken, these men took some branches with leaves of a certain tree and four or five men began to beat and strike them with these until they got up on their feet by themselves and fled.

Manner of clothing

All the people of Africa, both men and women, go naked and with their feet and head uncovered. Although in some kingdoms or countries people cover their sexual parts with a palm or cotton wrapper tied under the waist and going to the knees or mid-calf, in this kingdom of Warri, except for the king and the chiefs and some more mature women, they put nothing on. All the other women and young men go completely naked. Moreover, while our women decorate their head, these decorate their sexual parts and put a band around their waist woven with glass pearls from Venice; on this they hand a little mirror with corals or some bells or other things that they value.

Diabolical influence

The men of this kingdom, as most Africans, are most lazy and spend their time only in drinking, talking and soking, not engaged in any craft except for our six, such as working iron to make arrows, daggers and spears. The women make very fine cloths of palm or cotton, mats and earthen vessels for the daily use of their houses. These buy, sell and barter not only in the town but also go out with canoes t the markes which are held in those places. Of all thier profit they are obliged to give a half to their husbands and with the rest take care of themselves and the children they have, so that their husbands to not give the least thought at supporting their wives and children. Therefore they practice polygamy, since the more women one has the richer he is. The wives always remain as slaves of the man to whom their fathers gave them as wives. If they flee or leave him they are severely punished. So that none of them may complain, they have it as a law that he must spend the night with each in turn, so that they go in rotation from the first to the last, and a man may not go out of this order without provoking great confusion and cries among them. Therefore the women are in continual war and many are alienated from the man; since they cannot fast as long as their turn requires, they frequently provide themselves a remedy. But if the man discovers this he goes right away to accuse her to the king, and whoever lies with his wife is condemned to pay the king one slave. The king also has an iron stake placed before the house of the guilty man with the demand that the debtor must absolutely pay one slave within twenty-four hours. If this time passes without his having satisfied his obligation he must pay another slave for every twenty-four hours he is in arrears.

These women have the custom, when they are about to give birth or are menstruating, to separate from their husands and to to their own houses or another which they call the house of blood, such as are found in every neighbourhood, and they stay there for their days of purification. If they happen to go out they take every means to avoid seeing the face of their husband and they do not take the path that leads to his house. They do not enter church or any house in such a time, holding for certain that if they do the contrary the owner of that house would die a horrile death.

As soon as they give birth, they go with the creature to bathe in the river, which they continue to do for many days. After being purified in this way the return to their own houses. All the time they are giving milk, until the child puts out teeth, they paint their face, arms and breasts with a red colour and carry in their hand a cloth like a handkerchief died in the same colour. Later, when the child puts out teeth, they change this colour from red to white, and carry on this way until the child has put out all its teeth.

Usually they nurse their children until the fourth year. They do not wrap them or make cribs for them as we do, but leave them naked on a mat on the ground. When they go out to do business or travel in a canoe, they put the child in a straw or cotton cloth and tie it on their waist. The child is cuddled with its legs on the mother's sides and its arms under her arms, so that it is totally covered except for the head. Since many woman have large breasts, without loosening their child, they throw a breast over their shoulder so that, whether they are walkign or working, the child can suck any time it wants.

Every morning, when they give milk to their children until the age of three or four years, they have the custom of washing them in the river or in their own houses in a large basin of wood. After washing them they take them by the feet with their head down and dip them three times into the water, in the meantime beating all their joints with their hands, so that the poor children cry and shout; anyone who hears them would die from compassion. They do this, they say, so that when they are big they will be stronger and braver in war.

What they plant for food and what they eat

Usually these people do not eat much, and when they eat they do not use tables, tablecloths, spoons, forks or similar settings, but their table is a mat on the ground. Their bread is a root called yam which grows under the ground. There is another called cassava and a fruit which they call banana. They usually eat a little fish, mostly smoked and wormy, although they consider it a treat. They also eat the flesh of crocodiles, elephants, dogs and similar dirty things, since the country has no domestic meat except for a few chickens, which are small and tough. They do not eat their eggs unless they have a chick inside. They also have a few goats, but both these and the chickens they keep to sell to the Portuguese and other nationals who come on ships. The king eats the same bread and fish, sometimes fresh. As for meat, he easts domestic chickens, some local birds, pork, wild boar and dykers [impecazas??] which hunters kill. As for drink, the king and all the people drink palm wine.


People generally sleep on a mat on the ground. Although at all times one is dying of heat, they always keep a fire at their feet at night and always have light. The king sleeps on a bed with one matress on which is spread a light spread; yet he does not use a sheet, but only a little pillow for his head, filled with a certain material from the palm product which is finer than wool with a shell of red serafina [??]. The old chiefs and older men make a large and wide mound of earth on which one person can comfortably sleep; this is an arm's length high, with a mat or two according to their age.


These people ordinarily have a long life and I have known many who were over 100. One was the general of the king, whom I left alive and was over 120 and had had about 600 children, male and female, 350 of which I knew.

Their most common sickness is boils, which we call "French sickness", by which men and women are bent over and lame. Many young and old also die of smallpox, which they call becicas. There is another kind of sickness which they call biccios, which means a discharge from the body. To cure it they wash their sexual parts in hot water with lemon juice in it; in spice of this many die from it. Another sickness, also called biccios, is guinea worm. The little animal enters through the waist without the person being aware; wherever it is found under the skin, whether in the arms, legs or chest, it causes a great itching and inflamation. When it comes to a head like a boil, its head begins to bore its way out, causing great pain. From a small animal like a louse it becomes in the space of 15 days a worm longer than an arm and as fine as a guitar string. Then they call a man or a woman experienced in pulling it out. These take a stick and begin to wind it from the head, so that little by little it comes out. If it breaks it returns inside and makes a new head; otherwise it festers and dies. Some people have up to twenty or more worms at the same time. They have fevers as we do and they cure them with witchcraft.


The instruments of this kingdom, as of the others, are some drums made of a hollow log like a bushel. They are of varying lengths and covered on one end with a skin and the other with wood. When they play them, the players sit and put them between their legs, using their hands in place of sticks. Since this is the principal instrument, it is used ad all recreations for dancing and singing.

There are other instruments similar to these which are in the king's courtyard. These are quite long and large and number five or six. They are used as bells and have the same diversity of size as our bells do, but these stand on the ground. The one who plays them uses sticks, as we do for drums, and no one may play them except the one appointed to this job, and even he may not play them without orders from the king. From the sound everyone knows whether they are announcing a feast or joy, war, fire, council or whatever else. This sound is heard throughout the town. There is another sound of these drums which on every feast day calls those who want to come and dance; the king holds this feast in a courtyard of his palace.


They sing in this way. Four or five drummers sit as described above, and when they sing arias or songs after their manner, it produces such a smooth sound that it reminds the hearer of a concert of dogs when they bark and howl.


The arrangement of dancijng is that all the women take position directly in front of the drummers and the men on the sides. Six women in turn take the following posture. They bend down with their arms stretched towards their breasts with their hands held together, with the thumb of the right hand sticking out and moving at the tempo of the music. The feet are joined at the two toes, while the heels alternatively spread and join, thus setting the waist in motion and giving rhythm to the dance. They move like this until they reach the place of the drummers and singers, where they stand up and make a beautiful bow; the first move to the place of the last, and all the others do likewise. Such a style of dancing makes them sweat, and therefore a man from each side moves along with them fanning their waist with a dry cow tail that they hold in their hands or with a from cow skin fan made in a round shape and as wide as a palm and a half in every direction. These men accompany the same singing as the drummers, moving from the place where they begin all the way to the drummers, which is about twenty arms in distance; it takes them a good quarter of an hour to do this.

These and similar dances often take place in the public streets in different parts of the town, by day or by night, in which case they last until dawn. They do these dances in front of the houses of those who are bringing a new wife to the home, when the king makes a chief, or when someone has received some singular favour. Then all the women relatives gather; singing, dancing and jumping, they go through the town unil they reach the house of the celebrant, for whom a feast is made. This lasts eight straight days, night and day, while they drink and get drunk etc.

They have the custom that every day of the week a chief of the Large Council holds, we would say, a free court. Everyone who wants gathers there and they all sit on mats according to their rank. Speaking and conversing aloud, the chief gives an order for dried fruits to be brought, which they call monomus, similar to our nuts, and has each one distributed his portion and gives them palm wine to drink in large goblets of wood or ivory. They drink so much that almost all go out drunk. All the other chiefs do this in turn, and he who has a bigger crowd is shown to be more popular and to have more followers among the people than the others. On the king's birthday or his naming day or in commemoration of victories and the like [they do the same].

One of the more bizarre chiefs has formed a squadron of 60 persons painted on the face, arms and elsewhere with different colours (as was described above regarding war). With a naked dagger in hand they strike one another as the Moors do, and all in a troop with the chief leading them run and sing praises of the king, who sits in his audience courtyard watching them. They run around him three times and then stand still shouting cries of jubilation and joy. When the king signals, they all hold silence, while he speaks to them some words of thanks and praise for their bravery. He gives them drink and they go back running through the town jumping and shouting, and return every hour to the palace. There, although the king does not preside as the first time, they go through the same ceremony and receive the same drink. They do this from midnight until dawn. They observe this madness as le observe jousts.

They also play and dance on trampolines about eight arms high; the agility with which they turn and walk is stupendous. What is especially marvelous is how they play with a dagger in hand, while they hold the trampolines under their arms. They are completely covered with a plain palm material, while their face is masked with horns. They go around screaming with a loud voice, so that they seem like real demons.

When they recreate they also use other instruments, such as some cymbals, which are basins of fine brass which the Portuguese bring them. They hold it in one hand and beating it with a stick in the other. They also use large cow bells, ivory horns and the like, but they play these only when the king goes out in public and when he returns to the courtyard.

The kind of bread that they eat in these countries

For bread they use a root which they call yam, which grows underground, as do the roots of our white beets. This tuber appears black on the outside, and it is cooked by being boiled or roasted. It tastes like cooked castagna nuts. There is another root called cassava, which is long and fat, similar to our radishes, and is cooked in the same way; it is sweeter than the first and even appears sugared. Both are important foods, but they do not produce seeds. When it is time to plant them, they take many little pieces of the tubers and put them under ground at a regular distance. In a short time they put out their leaves and generate the said tubers.

There is also a tree called banana, which has a stalk like a grapevine and is about an arm and a half tall. While other plants produce grains, this puts out shoots which grow larger than cucumbers, about two or three hundred in number. When the peeling is removed, which is like that of stringbeans, it is roasted over coals and eaten in place of bread; this is an important staple. When the bunch is cut from the stalk it is green and is eaten as above. But in eight days it becomes entirely yellow and mature, and then it can be eaten raw or boiled, giving the taste of quince. Maise is also grown, here called Turkish grain, which they roast and eat.

Wine and oil

There is a very large number of palm trees, which grow as tall as the tallest cypress in Italy. From these they tap wine, which they call virgin palm, which is white in colour and sweet like barley water. They climb these palm trees the way people go up a greasy pole for ducklings on some feasts in these countries. When they get to the top they cut out the most tender branches and immediatly the wine begins to flow, just as vine branches drip water after pruning. Where they cut the branches they tie a gourd of the size of two or three flasks; they put it there in the evening and collect it full in the morning. Once this wine is drawn it becomes acidit after a day and a night and cannot be drunk. The same palm tree produces much fruit; these [coconuts] are as large as melons and are full of sweet water which seems sugared. Around the inside of the shell there is a white marrow as wide as a piaster which, in colour and taste, is like our mandola. The water is drunk for refreshment, because it is very health-giving.

There is another kind of palm tree which is wider and shorter than the latter and also gives wine, which they call bordone. This wine is not as sweet or white the the other, and at first is distasteful until one is used to drinking it. But it is better for health than the other. This wine is very plentiful in these two kingdoms and other neighbouring ones, and the people are very addicted to it and drink it without limit.

There is yet another palm tree, wider than the other two and five or six arms tall. From its stump come straight branches with thorns on each side that give a painful puncture. In the centre of these branches grows a stalk about two palms long, full of large seeds like chick-peas. Each seed becomes as large as a castagna. When they are unripe they have a violet colour, then change to yellow and half-red, taking the shape of a pine-cone and the size of a large cucumber. When they are mature they are opened and inside are full of a yellow fiber but oily, with a seed such as an olive has. They extract this and put the rest of the fuit in wooden vats and crush it with their feet, as we do with wine. From this there comes a yellow liquid which is used as we use oil; therefore they call it palm oil. They break the nuts and eat them as we eat mandola. It is true that the most kind God gave them neither vines nor olive trees nor grain nor wool nor stones for making houses, but his magnificence has provided them with a tree that, with little or no labour, provides them all the things mentioned.


Besides palm fruits, there are other products of trees and plants. There are many tree fruits, such as [inguaida =guava??], which is like our ordinary lemon, but inside is red and full of seeds, like brugiotti figs. This fruit tastes good and is refreshing, but if it is eaten unripe it causes diarrhoea.

There is another fruit, larger than a hazel nut, round, with a hard shell, abut its taste is better than guava; but the blacks use it to prepare a drink.

There are many other tree fruits, but the main ones are those mentioned. There are small lemons, organges of various kinds, both sweet and bitter; they are beautiful and more tasty than ours, and all grow in the forest without any human care.

Among plant fruits, the best are pineapple and [chricca = guava??]. If the first were in Europe it would be considered the queen of all fruits, because it is so beautiful to look at and smells and tastes so good. It is so different and more perfect than any of our fruits that it is impossible to describe it. The plant and its leaves are like the plant which we call spada fetida; it has a stump with a very vague kind of flower which becomes as big as a pine cone. When it matures, the top of the fruit puts out a crown of the same leaves as the plant has. Around the bottom grow its children, with the same crown on top. They say it has a hot quality, but those who are concerned with health clean it, cut it in pieces and put it in fresh water with a little salt; after a half hour they eat it.

The second produces a fruit like peas or vetch. When it is fresh the skin is eaten together with the seeds inside and it is very aromatic, but if it is cooked two or three days, from green it becomes red, and then the skin becomes sweet and tempers somewhat the smell that it had. They dry its seeds and serve them as we do cloves. The Portuguese bring them to Lisbon, where they are highly valued.

There is cardamom which is much larger than that produced in the Indies. There is pepper, but very small, like grains of millet. There is also a kind of root similar to the flowers which we call anemoli, which has a very strong smell. If just a little is put in a pot of meet or fish, it seasons it more than pepper or cloves.

There are many medicanal herbs, much salsapariglia, cassia trees, holy wood and endless other plants, as Mattiolo points out.

Colours and dies

There are many trees whose roots and bark contain dies of all sorts of colours. When those people, for example, want to dye something red they go to tat tree or root that naturally gives a red colour, etc. They boil these roots in plain water and it gives a most perfect colour to what they want to dye, as can be seen in cloths, palm leaves or cotton.

There is one tree called faculla, whose trunk and branches give a scarlet colour. The Dutch and the English value it much. The Portuguese value it so much that they are not allowed to export or bring it to Lisbon without express permission from the Governors of São Tomé or of Angola, [otherwise] the order is that the person be handed over to the magistrate court of the House of India in Lisbon. There is so much Brazil wood that they use it for firewood.


There is a tree that produces nuts similar to galla di Leuante, which they beat into powder and dust it on the head, or women on their waist. It gives an odour that can be smelled thirty arm-lengths away.

There is also a herb that has leaves like lily of the valley, which those Moors hole in their hands or tie to their waist; it gives such a sweet and prolongued odour that it far surpasses that of musk and civet cat.

They have the musk, but do not use, because these other scents are superior, and they prefer to sell it to the Portuguese.

Above all these scents, this bush people appreciate garlic brought to them from Europe. For a sprig of that they abandon every other odiforous thing, and the more it is rotten the more they like it, carrying it in hand or tying it around the neck.


I already said, in describing the island, how many and varied are the birds found in these countries. Besides those, there is found a large kind like a crane, with a white body but black wings and tail, and a large beak as long as a palm. The Portuguese say these are pellicans; they do not fly much and mostly stay on the ground. They can easily be domesticated. We had two which went out to feed in the town by day and returned to the house in the evening; the king had given them to us.

There are many ostriches and other birds different from ours that do not fly in the air, like our ducks and geese.

Besides, there are herons, whose feathers the Portuguese like very much.


On these islands there are no elephants or lions, although they are on the continent. Instead of these there are many tigers, panthers, leopards and land and water crocodiles. The water crocodiles are used for medicine and the blacks do not eat them. The land crocodiles are entirely different; I would more call them serpents than crocodiles. These they eat, just as we eat castrated [bulls]. There are fierce wild cows with horns like those of buffalo; these they eat and are good. There are many of an animal called gazelle, which is like a small goat; these are excellent to eat. There are civet cats, and very many snakes. Some are as small as our own, while others are so big and long that you would not believe it unless you saw them; these too they eat. There are very many bats, a half-arm long, and others like our green lizard, but of different colours that turn the stomach of whoever sees them. These are plentiful in houses, but do not bite anyone. There is a flood of ants and endless kinds of other little animals that are a nuisance and harmful.

Finally there is a great variety of monkeys. One of them is called the bush man, which usually walks erect and both the male and the female are as big as a man. It lives in the forest and has a thin skin without a tail. When it is running away it puts its hands on the ground. The male has a beard and both the male and the female have round faces. The palm of their hand is very strong and can grab a man and drag him on the ground. If anyone tries to take from them what they are holding in their hands, they lunge against him. It is very difficult to catch them alive, except when they are young, because they run very fast and are good at climbing trees. When they find themselves safe, they clap their hands and mock their hunters, as if they were rational. If anyone doubts this, here is another proof: They bring their children to yam farms, that root which serves as bread, and after digging the number that they need they divide them into dozens, counting them in the Warri language: "one, two, three" until "twelve". Then they go back to the pile and count another dozen until they finish separating stacks of a dozen each; the dozens of larger yams are on one side and the smaller on the other. They then call their children to come and pick up their share. If they put their hands on the bigger yams, right away they grab them, turn them on their sides and spank them very well, just as our mothers do to their children. The children shout and cry as if they were human, and thereby learn, when they are set loose, not to go back to the big yams but to the little ones. Then they load all the yams to go and hide them underground in the bush, keeping them for when they have nothing else to eat. I have not seen this animal myself, but the king and several of his chiefs told me all about them and had me speak with many people who have seen them. The king also promised to show me one captured live or dead, but I had no chance, in spite of spending seven years there, because of all the work and traveling I had to do because of my missionary obligation.

How they catch and kill these animals

Usually they go in groups of ten or fifteen persons, who go hunting for them with no other instruments than poisoned arrows and spears; a small skin puncture of these that draws blood is enough to make an animal fall dead immediatelly, whether it is an elephant, a lion, a tiger or anything else. They also sometimes dig a large and deep pit, cover it with tree branches and put a kid over the middle. When it bleats, a tiger or a panther or other animal comes running with hunger at the sound, thinking it is treading on solid ground, and falls in. There they kill it with their arrows and spears.

After they kill one of these animals, they return to the town singing and shouting after their manner and go straight to the palace to present it to the king. After he praises and thanks them, he gives the the usual palm wine to drink and has them carry it around for display in the town in the manner they came. If the king desires to take the animal he does so; if not, he gives it back to the one who killed it. After skinning it, this man takes the skin for himself and shares the meat with the others.


There are many poisonous herbs and roots which kill if they are put in the mouth or if their juice is put in a drink. But there is a remedy, and I have cured many with Orvieto wine.

There is a tree whose roots on the east side are most poisonous, but on the west side are a cure for the others and for every other poison. The poison on the east side is so strong thast there is no medicine for it except its own opposite roots. They use the black juice of these roots as an ink, into whihc they dip the tips of their arrows and spears, all they while holding against their skin the opposite root; otherwise they would fall dead. They use these to go to war and to capture all sorts of animals. I tried very hard, even with the king, to know what this tree is and to get both roots, but I could never get either to have them or to know them, not even in other kingdoms, because they do not want to teach the whites about them.


Throughout Africa it is never cold, but rather excessively hot, especially from November to March, during which time it never rains. From March throughout October the weather is more comfortable because of the continuous rains. At that time the trees and grass are always green. As soon as any leaves fall others appear, as on our olives and holm-oaks.

During the rainy months there is very much lightning, accompanied by horrible thunder. The blacks are very much afraid of this and run into grottos, saying that there is war in the air.


To these two kingdoms and to other nearby places come the Portuguese and Dutch, and rarely the English, to buy slaves and elephant tusks, as I explained elsewhere. In exchange they give iron, brass mandillas, linen cloth, Holand weaves, [anichini??], scarlet cloth, embroidered cloth and the like. They above all value our coral, which is long and not round, and a stone called lauhecca, as well as hard tobacco, pearls, crystal-ware from Venice, gongs, bells, Jew's harps and whistles. In general, what we consider junk, they appreciate most. The sailors who bring these things make a fantastic profit.

Their currency

The money of these countries are small round shells called bugios, which come from the East Indies in barrels and the Portuguese and Dutch buy by weight. Two-thousand of these buys a slave, which is equivalent to about a bushel of our own. Everything is bought and sold with this money, even the smallest things, as we do with black quattrini. In Angola and Congo and all the kingdoms around them they use another kind of money similar to this, called zimbos. These are shells that are smaller and longer than the others and are obtained from the water on the coast of Angola.

By bartering in these things a slave would cost five scudi in our money and is resold for about eighty. When shipping was open to Buenos Aires they were sold for five hundred pieces of eight which would be priced by the Portuguese there at a little more than twenty scudi, that is, for slaves coming from Warri. Those from Angola cost fifteen.


The kingdom of Benin, they say, is more than one hundred leagues wide; it is sparsely populated because most of it is desert. Therefore neither the Portuguese nor the Dutch are allowed to buy or export from the kingdom male slaves, since the king wishes to use them for warfare, but only women. The city where the king lives is twice as big as Florence, its streets are are very wide, and it is well populated. The houses are made of red mud on ground level and without windows facing the outside. Although the earth is naturally red, they add some more red dye to it, giving it a shine that is most beautiful to look at.

The palace of the king is not much different in design from that of Warri, but it is much larger; it is full of rooms and made of mud on ground level as the other houses. The palace and all the houses are roofed with palm branches, as is common in all those kingdoms.

The king has a numerous body guard and keeps up much pomp and ostentation, since he lets no one see him except his women and eight or ten more familiar men who make the people understand that he does not eat or drink, while he is venerated as God. These men would loose their lives if they said that he ate or drank. While he gives an audience, he stays in a place where he speaks and sees but is not seen, like our nuns. When he goes out through the city, he goes enclosed or locked in carriage or large seat, richly furnished with drapes and jewels, with slits through whihc he can see without being seen. Four men carry him on their shoulders, accompanied by a numerous following of chiefs on horseback and footmen armed with arrows and javelins.

The elect this king in the same way as in Warri, but the government is very different from Warri and all the other kingdoms, having the reputation of being the most organized and best governed kingdom in all Africa. That is truly so, since I have not seen or heard of any of those kingdoms or rulers that can compare to our European form of rule [except this].

In this kingdom there is every sort of fruit and birds, as in Warri, but here there are more cows, goats and horses, but these are small and funny looking. They ride them without bits or saddles, and use rather a cloth or drape conforming to the status of the person.

The people go completely naked, except in the city where the people are more formal and they cover themselves with a wrapper of linen or taffeta from the waist to mid-calf. The chiefs, on top of a white wrapper from the waist to the knees, put on a taffeta cloth of the colour they like, hanging from the right and left hands to the feet; they tie some knots in it, forming a train, and whoever has more knots dragging on the ground is considered more pompously dressed. Usually the chiefs do not go out of their houses except on horseback; especially when they go to the palace they cannot go on foot. The rein of these horses is a palm rope, like a halter.

The all idoloters and hold for sure that at death the soul enjoys immortality, but is in need of the things it needed when living in the body. For this purpose they kill some servants and slaves so that, as they served him in this life, they may continue serving him in the next. To bury the dead, they first dig a trench and put the body in with many things to eat, with palm wine, cloths of satin, wool or linen, according to the status of the deceased. Then the relatives and a crowd of other people gather joyfully and festively around the trench, drinking and dancing, while some blacks with an iron club break the shins of those people assigned to serve the man in the next life and throw them half-alive into the same ditch on top of the deceased. Lastly they cover them up, and those who were left behind mourn for disappointment that they were not chosen to go and serve their master also in the next world.

They all have the ceremony of circumcision, as throughout most of Africa. Their idols are like those of Warri, but, whereas on a feast day in Warri they bow down in worship of the moon, here, on the contrary, they do the same with the sun.

The king has his own idol in an ordinary crow, which the people insist speaks to him and gives him counsel according to the needs of the moment. When one crow dies, he takes another in its pllace and puts the first, dried, in his devil shrine. They have the custom that every year on the day of the king's accession they sacrifice to him a noble girl about sixteen years old. Any chief who has such a daughter leaves no stone unturned, even begging the king, to have his own chosen for the offering. This would make them feel favoured and honoured over the others by the king and more popular among the peole, since they believe that receiving such a singular favour will make their family always grow in greatness, prosperity etc.

With regard to arms, poisons, scents, fruits andanimals, they are like Warri, except that here there are more lions and elephants.

Up to this point I have written as succinctly as I could. So as not to bore the reader I have omitted treating of Calabar, Arda, Rio dos Escravos, Cameroon, the island of Fernando Po, Rio di Gabon and many other pllaces where I was, since all of them live in a similar manner to what has been described.

All this is from eight degrees latitude, where there has never been other missionary, as far as I know.

From the equator to the south, where there are the kingdoms of Angola and Congo and other kingdoms, I say nothing, supposing that others have told all. The same applies to Merica, the Tertiaries, Cape Verde etc.

13-5-1657 Governor of São Tomé to King of Portugal: arrests J.B. Borel

Lord: I left your court for this island of São Tomé, of which your Majesty made me governor, on 25 October. After three months of journey I arrived at the port on 24 January. The next day I disembarked and took possession of the Fort of São Sebastião and everything that is most important for this governorship. In the limited time that I have been here I have tried to find out about everything so as to keep your Majesty informed. I found that the fort was designed in conformity to the orders of your Majesty with fifty canons [pracõ??] in it, since in this form only consists the whole defence of this island. And I found that it is missing some of them. I have restored some but not the others so as to complete the number. I also found that this fort lacks gun powder on hand. I brought some along with me, seeing the necessity in which I found practically nothing. There is also a great need of containers, since in them is stored the powder, which suffers great degradation in this climate; that was to prevent the great waste suffered every year by packing it in barrels which hardly arrive by horse when much of it begins to be lost.

Also I had a general summons made to see what the people have. I found there are men who can handle good arms, more or less, and some with arms in a very bad state of repair. I learned that they send them for sale in the kingdom of Warri, where they find a good price and are in demand.

Also I learned that the boats that go from this kingdom for that trade, even though they are few, carry many arms [por ueniaga??] for the same trade. Considering that this could in time prejudice the interests of your Majestyand his vasalls who take part in that trade, I did not resolve this matter, and I only inform your Majesty that you should direct me what to do in this matter, likewise to send the powder and the containers...

After taking posession of the government of this island, of which your Majesty made me master, two months or so later a boat came to this port from trading in Warri (which is the only port we have open for the few boats that there are on this island, because all the other trading places on this whole coast are infested with Dutch enemies and every other foreign navigation). In that boat I saw a man by the name of João Bautista Borel, a foreigner, who had gone and come from there with four foreign Capuchins, whom your Majesty had permitted to enter this kingdom to do missionary work in Benin and Warri. Borel, with the intention of taking the Capuchin habit, used this to expand the trade that he had in this inportant kingdom (as people say). Since he came from Warri and left the friars whom he had accompanied for the intention just mentioned, without putting his intention into effect, talk arose among all this people that what he intended and was up to was only to discover thast port. They are convinced by the actions which he has done, which moved me to arrest him and punish him, and to search his papers, where I found on him some mercantile curiosites of the kingdom of Warri, from which I inferred that he was more motivated by the zeal of discovering that port for his nation, that is, Spain, which would be a great disaster for this island and mean its total ruin. That explains his zeal to become a friar. I handed over all that I took from him to Doctor Pedro Fernandez Monteiro [p.a nesse Reino obrar en sua pessoa e no mais, o que uir he mais em utilidade do seruiço de V. Mg.de e bem com de todos??] whose Catholic person I obey. From the island of Sõ Tomé, 13 May 1658.

B. Carlos de Napolej

2-2-1659 Angelo Maria di Ajaccio to Propaganda Fide

Most Eminent Lords and Patrons,

At the gate of death (Most Eminent Lords) this letter is being written to your Eminences and signed after a tour and an almost infinity of works over four years and finally sealed with despair of getting any other help, according to the promise made to us by our Father Prefect on his return to Rome. We are overburdened, two poor religious, alone and constantly sick. This is partly because in getting the ordinary necessary means of living we have, up to now, not experienced any sign of mercy corresponding to the state of our Capuchin habit. The whole kingdom is perverse and perversely sunk in paganism under the cover of a pretended Christianity. The King does not govern and cannot correct the abuses for which we were sent out by that sacred tribunal, because he fears death, while we die a thousand times a day without enjoying life. The thing that has thrown us overboard into a sea of troubles in such a dangerous place is to see us abandoned by our two other companions in such a time of calamity.

Father Raffaelle da Fiorenza and Father Francesco da Castignano, both preachers, who left the island of Sõ Tomé in the way that I informed your Eminences, returned shortly afterwards for Italy, without permission or telling anyone. God know why and how they did so. In due time the superiors will know. At that time my companion Father Bonaventura di Fiorenza sent all the belongings of the mission, suspecting, after so much work, some terrible accident. I stopped, waiting for news of another ordinary. When he proved to be the same as before, I will take what decision seems expedient to me, in conformity with reason and the salvation of souls. Meanwhile may your Eminences dispose of us and of our lives once offered in sacrifice for the greater honour and glory of God. As we kiss your sacred vestments, we pray from heaven for you to have the strength to be able to resist, the light to be able to understand, and life for the universal good of the Holy Church.

Warri, 2 February 1659.
The most obedient son of your Eminences,
Friar Angelo Maria Corso, Capuchin.

19-1-1662 Angelo Maria di Ajaccio to Propaganda Fide

Most Eminent and Reverend Lords,

The situation which calamitous times and the miserable calamity in which this poor kingdom of Portugal finds itself for lack of spiritual pastors can only show your Eminences in that sacred tribunal the enormous misery, the public simony, the disregard for the Church, the little respect for the Apostolic authority, the non-observance of the Council of Trent, the mockery of Pontifical bulls, the ignorance of priests and the scandalous life of those ignorant men by which today in our times the Church of God is governed. We who are two poor descalced friars can bear witness to this with the experience of so much labour and unjust persecutions suffered for the sake of justice, after the fatigue of six years in the kingdom of Warri. We were sent to that place by a Pontifical decree under the name of Apostolic missionaries of your Eminences, where we set the first foundations of the faith, uprooted the ancient customs, changed the face of black paganism, introduced Christianity which had been lost for the space of at least fifteen years, planted the trees of the sacraments and restored to the Church that blood of Christ which was wrongly sold by our predecessors, and finally established those peoples in Catholic observance, with the sacrement of marriage which is so difficult to introduce in those parts, where unregulated sense went along with the marriage of that same king with a Portuguese lady, which cost us so much work and was of such great profit to those blacks, since their conversion depended on the example of the king. Finally we earned for all that the name of disloyal traitors to the crown of Portugal, a name that in this time cannot be bought with any other money than the loss of tens of thousands of souls abandoned in those deserts who were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. Finally, for our defence of the Apostolic authority and for faithfully exercising the office of missionaries, exposing the enormity of their perverse customs, we were treated so badly by the Vicar General of São Tomé who had no regard for our habit or sense of respect for the Church. As I wrote to our Father Procurator, the pagans never invented such strategems of martyrdom to kill the martyrs as this man invented to take away our life and honour.

This man, most Eminent Lords, living on this island with the other canons whose see is vacant, could not put up with us in those places because of their interests, and under the pretext of reasons of state, with a thousand false accusations, detained us in our hospice, where we were incarcerated for three months in the name of His Majesty. And to give greater vent to his passions he declared our appointment null and void because it was not signed by the Pope. He said our faculties were worthless, since neither the Pope nor the Sacred Congregation could send us to those missions discovered by them, and we could exercise these faculties only with the written permission of that Vicar and not by verbal permission. That whole time of six years we had fallen under ecclesiastical censures, so that the sacraments we ministered were considered null and had to be repeated. He also suspended us from orders, and as a result we found ourselves in the greatest need. And since we made it understood that we could not come under such a censure because we recognize no other superior than His Holiness and the Sacred Congregation, and that we have sufficiently satisfied our obligations to the Vicar to the extent that our privileges and the Council of Trent oblige us in entering our mission, he excommunicated us on a feast day before all the people as disobedient and obstinant. In spite of the Pontifical bulls, excommmunications and the Apostolic decree, since we were sent by your Eminences, he violently showed that he respected neither the Pope nor the Cardinals nor decrees nor bulls nor censures, and you could say not even God; with his soldiers and priests he forcibly put us on a ship for Lisbon, sending heretical and false letters along to the Vicars wherever we were to pass declaring us suspended even during the voyage, so as to discredit us and give credit to his wicked designs.

Nevertheless his plans were not implemented, because by the very arms with which he thought he could wound our reputation he killed his own reputation and esteem before all. We felt sorry for ourselves in such a great and manifest persecution when we arrived in Portugal; nevertheless these lords might attribute the cause of such trouble to the lack of bishops in that region. So, examining very well our success and seeing our reasons, they declared us innocently persecuted and promised us to punish severely those who caused us to depart and committed so much injustice and calumny against us. Now they are obliging us to return to our mission so as to let those people know our innocence.

Most Eminent Lords, our return is most necessary so as not to lose the gains made among the blacks, especially since over such a long time it has become very great in that region. It is also necessary for the honour of the Church and our religious habit which was despised though we were operating under the name of Apostolic missionaries. We pray your Eminences in the guts of Christ to send us the help of religious who will not be idle in those parts, especialy since we have already discovered the intention of the king of Benin to allow us to enter his kingdom. The mission which we have already founded is one of the best and most fruitful of all that we have in Africa. Such religious can likewise correct with their authority cases that might come up in the future with that Vicar of São Tomé and his priests, and that will also serve for all the missions in every place where there may be found capital enemies of religious sent by the Sacred Congregation, to the scandal of the laity and the detriment of the Pontifical authority, which they obviously consider nothing, pretending that everything depends immediately on themselves and that we are only their servants whenever they want, for whom they want and for as long as they want.

We trust in your protection and authority, and we will wait for, at São Tomé, the resolutions and provisions that you consider in conformity with the divine will. With this we humbly kiss your sacred vestments, praying Heaven to give you help and strength for your court which is so necessary for the defence of the Holy Church and the exaltation of the Catholic Religion.

Lisbon, 19 January 1662. From the most humble son of your Eminences,
Friar Angelo Maria Corsi, unworthy Capuchin.

[In the margin is the note: On 24 August 1664: Reply to Father Corsi that they will be sent.]

1682 Girolamo Merolla da Sorrento tr. (updated) in Churchill, Collection of Voyages and Travels (1744-6), vol. 5, p. 459 (in Thomas Hodgkin, Nigerian Perspectives, p. 138-140; cf. John Pinkertais, General Collection of... voyages, vol. 16 (1814), 195-316

The vice-superior, father Agelo Maria d'Aiaccio of the province of Corsica, together with Father Bonaventura da Firenze, having but just set foot in the kingdom of Ouueri [Warri], they were very courteously received by that King. Ths prince was better bred than ordinary, haig been brought up among the Portuguese, whose language he was an absolute master of, and could besides write and read, a qualification unusual among these Ethiopian princes.

Almost at the first sight of the King, the vice-superior broke out into these words: "If your majesty does desire to have me continue within your dominions, you must lay your injunctions on your subjects that they embrace the holy state of matrimony according to our rites and ceremonies; and moreover, that whereas now the young men and women go naked till they are marriageable, I desire your majesty to command that they may all go covered.

To which the King aswered that, as to what related to his subjects, he would take care that they should comply with his request, but as for himself, he could never consent to do it unless he were married to a white woman, as some of his predecessors had been. But what white woman would care to marry a black man, een though he were a crowned head especially among the Portuguese, who naturally despise them? Nevertheless the pious father, trusting in God's providence to prmote his own glory, gave no repulse to the obstinate monarch, but seemed to approve of all he said. To bring this good work to effect, he immediately departed, taking his way towards the island of St. Thomas, situated under the equinoctial line, and reckoned one of the nine countries conquered by the Portuguese in Africa. There he made it his business to inquire after a whie woman that would marry a black man that was a crowned head. Whereupon he was informed that there was one in that island, though of mean condition, whose poverty and meanness were nevertheless ennobled by a virtuous education and a comely personage...

The young lady not long afterwards, having first taken leave of her relations, set out with some few Portuguese and the missionary for the aforesaid kingdom. Being just enterd the confines, she was joyfully and universally saluted by the people for their Queen, having triumphal arches raised for her and several other demonstrations of joy paid her by the inhabitants. Arriving at the King's palace, she was received by that monarch like another Rachel by Jacob, Esther by Ahasuerus, or Artemisia by Mausolus, and afterwards married to him after the Christian manner, thereby giving a good example to his subjects, who soon forgot their former licentious principles and submitted to be restrained by the rules of the Gospel, that is, were all married according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church.