<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1906385056278061&ev=PageView&noscript=1" />
Skip to main content Accessibility feedback


In North-Eastern Africa, extending from Sennar south to beyond Khartoum and including the Egyptian Sudan

Click to enlarge

Nubia, in Northeastern Africa, extending from Sennar south to beyond Khartoum and including the Egyptian Sudan. The southern section includes Sennar with Dschesireh-el Dschesire (Island of Islands), the ancient Meroe; the western, Bahr el Abiad, Kordofan, and Darfur; the eastern, Tarka; the central, Dongola; and the northern, Nubia proper. The various tribes belong to the Ethiopian or Berber family, intermixed with Arabians; in the south negroes preponderate. Nubia embraces 335 597 square miles and contains 1,000,000 inhabitants; Dongola, Berber, Khartoum, Fashoda, Sennar, Fassuglo, 75,042 square miles with 2,500,000 inhabitants; Taka, 7766 square miles with 1,000,000 inhabitants; Kordofan, 35,069 square miles with 300,000 inhabitants; Darfur, 106,-070 square miles with 4,000,000 inhabitants; Shegga, 85,017 square miles with 1,400,000 inhabitants. The chief cities are: Khartoum, at the junction of the White and Blue Niles, founded in 1823 and the starting-point of all scientific and missionary expeditions, destroyed in 1885 by the Mandi, rebuilt in 1898; Omdurman, on the Abiad, founded by the Mandi; Sennar, capital of Southern Nubia; Kassala, capital of Taka. On the Nile are Berber, Abu-Hammed, Old Dongola, and New Dongola, capital of central Nubia; in Nubia proper, Derr, Wadi Half a, and Assuan; in Kordofan, El-Obeid; in Darfur, El Fasho. Formerly the port of Nubia was Suakin on the Red Sea; from 1906 it has been Port Sudan. Nubia is administered by the Viceroy of Egypt.

HISTORY.—Nubia is said to be derived from the Egyptian Nub (gold), as the Egyptians obtained most of their gold there. In the Bible it is called Cush. Egypt sought repeatedly to extend its southern boundaries, and during the eighteenth dynasty reached Wadi Haifa. A temple was built at Napata (near the Fourth Cataract) by Amenophis III, and Rameses II waged successful war with the Ethiopians. After this there arose in Napata near the sacred mountain Gebel Barkal an independent theocratic state; the remains of many of its temples are still to be seen. During the twenty-third dynasty the Nubians shook off the Egyptian yoke, and even conquered Egypt (750 B.C.); three Nubian kings ruled the united territory (732-668). Psametich I (664-10) drove out the Nubians, and Meroe replaced Napata, which maintained its sovereignty over Nubia until destroyed by the native king Ergamenes during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-47). During Roman rule, the Nubians attempted to gain the Thebaid, but Petronius in 25 B.C. conquered Napata and forced Queen Candace to make a treaty of peace. In the third century after Christ marauding incursions of Nubian tribes called the Blemmyer forced Diocletian to summon the Nobatae from El Charge in the Nile valley as confederates of the empire. Nevertheless Prima, Phcenicon, Chiris, Taphis, and Talmis yielded. In the fourth and fifth centuries the Thebaid was so often devastated that Emperor Marcian was forced to conclude an unfavorable peace in 451. Christianity, brought probably by the hermits and monks of the Thebaid, began to spread through the country. The various accounts of this event are confusing; Pliny and Mela give the name of Ethiopia to all the countries in this region, including Abyssinia, while ecclesiastical writers speak of an Ethiopian Church, but give no account of the conversion of individual lands. Christianity was not yet well established, when about the middle of the sixth century under the protection of the empress Theodora, the Alexandrian priest Julian introduced Monophysitism. Its adherents called themselves Copts. The Nobataean kings Silko and Eirpanomos accepted Christianity in this form, and the Monophysite patriarch Theodosius, Bishop Theodore of Philie, and Longinus, Julian’s successor, put the new doctrine on a firm basis. In 580 Longinus baptized the King of the Alodae. The final victory of the Monophysites was secured by their union with the Arabs, soon to be masters of Egypt.

In 640 Amr Ben el-Asi S, the commander-in-chief of the Arabs, conquered Egypt and ended Byzantine supremacy. The Melchite (Catholic) patriarch, George of Alexandria, fled to Constantinople and his see remained vacant for over a hundred years. The Copts secured peace only by becoming confederates of the enemy, and in return received nearly all the Catholic churches; their patriarch alone exercised jurisdiction over the entire territory. According to the Arabian Makrizi, as related by Ibn Selim, when the Nubians requested bishops they received from Alexandria Monophysites, and in this way became and remained Jacobites or Copts. In the following centuries numerous churches and monasteries were built even in Upper Nubia and Sennar, the ruins of which yet remain. Other documents show that Nubia was divided into three provinces with seventeen bishops: Maracu with the suffragan Dioceses of Korta, Ibrim, Bucoras, Dunkala, Sai, Termus, and Suenkur; Albadia with Borra, Gagara, Martin, Arodias, Banazi, and Menkesa; Niexamitis with Soper, Coucharim, Takchi, and Amankul. Yet Christianity was in continual danger from the Mohammedans. Nubia succeeded in freeing itself from the control of Egypt, which became an independent Mohammedan kingdom in 969, but in 1173 Saladin’s brother Schems Eddawalah Turanschah advanced from Yemen, destroyed the churches, and carried off the bishop and 70,000 Nubians. At the same time Northern Nubia was conquered. In 1275 the Mameluke sultan Djahn Beibars sent an army from Egypt into Nubia. Dongola was conquered, the Christian king David was obliged to flee, and the churches were plundered. The inhabitants escaped forcible conversion to Mohammedanism only by payment of a head tax. Nubia was divided into petty states, chief of which was Sennar, founded in 1484 by the negro Funji. For some time Sennar ruled Shendi, Berber, and Dongola. In the eighteenth century the King of Sennar obtained for a time Kordofan also. From the Middle Ages there is little information as to the position of Christianity; Islam became supreme, partly by force, partly by the amalgamation of the native with the Arabian tribes.

In 1821 Sennar and the dependent provinces submitted to Mohammed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt. The commanding position of the capital, Khartoum, led the Holy See to hope that the conversion of Central Africa could be effected from Nubia. On December 26, 1845, the Propaganda erected a vicariate, confirmed by Gregory XVI, April 3, 1846. The Austrian imperial family contributed funds and the mission was under the protection of the Austrian consulate at Khartoum. Missionary work was begun by the Jesuits Ryllo (d. 1848) and Knoblecher (d. 1858), who pushed forward as far as 4° 10′ north of the equator, Kirchner, and several secular priests (among whom were Haller, d. 1854, and Gerbl, d. 1857). They founded stations at Heiligenkreuz on the Abiad (1855), and at Santa Maria in Gondokoro (1851). In 1861 the missions were transferred to the Franciscans. Father Daniel Comboni (d. at Khartoum, 1881) founded an institute at Verona for the training of missionaries to labor among the negroes of Soudan. The Pious Mothers of the Negro Country (Pie Madri della Nigrizia), founded in 1867, devoted itself to conducting schools for girls and dispensaries. The Mandi, Mohammed Ahmed, in 1880 conquered Kordofan, in 1883 vanquished the Egyptian army, and on January 26, 1885, destroyed Khartoum. A number of priests and sisters were held for years in captivity; the name of Christian seemed obliterated. After the overthrow of his successor, Caliph Abdullah, by the English under Lord Kitchener, September 2, 1898, the mission was reestablished. In 1895 a mission had been opened at Assuan. In 1899 Msgr. Roveggio with Fathers Weiler and Huber established a station at Omdurman, and in 1900 founded the mission near the Shilluk and reestablished the station at Khartoum. Under his successor, Geyer, stations were opened in 1904 at Halfaya, Lul, Atiko, Kayango; in 1905 at Mbili among the Djur, at Wau in Bahr el Ghazal, and the mission at Suakin, opened in 1885, was resumed. The Sons of the Sacred Cross, as the Missionaries of Verona had been called from 1887, founded a station at Port Sudan.

Starting from Khartoum the missionary territory is divided into a northern and a southern district. The majority of the population in the north is Mohammedan, and the chief task of the missionaries is pastoral work among the scattered Christian communities. In 1908 Khartoum had 69,344 inhabitants, Omdurman 57,985, among them about 2307 Europeans, of whom about 1000 are Catholics. Khartoum is served by 2 fathers, 1 brother, and 4 sisters; the schools contain 42 boys and 75 girls. In Omdurman there are 300 Catholics, 3 fathers, 1 brother, and 5 sisters; 44 boys and 45 girls attend the school. There is also a school for girls at Halfaya. At Assuan there are 2 fathers, 1 brother, and 4 sisters; 34 boys and 54 girls are taught in the schools. There are 500 Catholics among the workmen. At Port Sudan the Catholics number between 200 and 300. There are Catholics also at Haifa, Abu-Hammed, Dongola, Argo, Meraui, Berber, Atbara, Darner, Shendi, Kassala, Duen, El-Obeid, Bara, and Nahud. The southern missions among the heathen negroes have already advanced beyond the boundaries of Nubia. The statistics for 1907 for the northern and southern missions were: 11 stations, 30 priests, 23 brothers, 41 sisters, 2407 Catholics, 492 boys and girls in the mission-schools.



Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission! Donate