Congo, Kingdom of, Christianity in

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A Portuguese expedition reached the ancient Congo kingdom in 1483. In 1491 the king and one of his sons was baptized; the king reverted to paganism but the son, who did not, on the death of his father became king himself as Afonso I (1506–43). Both he and his successors appealed for more priests, and the Jesuits opened a college in San Salvador in 1625. In 1645 a Capuchin mission arrived and for the next 150 years Capuchins worked in the country. After the defeat of Antonio I by the Portuguese in 1665, the kingdom largely disintegrated. Church life continued in the western province of Soyo, but in the course of the 18th cent. the supply of missionaries failed; Christian life was sustained only by the maestri, catechist interpreters who led the Church in the absence of a priest. Nevertheless, when British Baptist missionaries reached San Salvador in the 1870s, the king who welcomed them still thought of himself as a Christian. For the later history, see previous entry and Angola.

Subjects: Christianity.

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