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A Note on the Archives of the Propaganda Fide and Capuchin Archives

  • John K. Thornton (a1)

The formation of the Holy Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in 1622 as a part of the Papacy's attempt to centralize control over overseas missions in Roman hands led to the formation of one of the most important archival deposits in Europe for documentation pertaining to Africa in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Archivio “De Propaganda Fide” in Rome. This Roman-directed missionary organization sent its priests to every corner of the globe, relying especially for its African enterprises on Italian clergy of the Capuchin order. In connection with research on the history of the kingdom of Kongo in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, I have worked extensively with materials frcm both the archives of the “Propaganda Fide” and various deposits of the Capuchin order, including a personal visit to the “Propaganda Fide” in January 1978.

The Archivio “De Propaganda Fide” is located in Rome at Piazza di Spagna, 48, and when I visited it, it was open only four hours a day from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. every day except Sunday and holidays. Aside from the short hours, however, the archive is a pleasant place to work. The staff is friendly and helpful and the reading room well-lighted and well-appointed. In addition, the material is extremely well indexed and easy to use, so that the researcher who knows the system will have no difficulty in locating relevant material with a minimum of leafing and surveying. Fr. Lowrie J. Daly, has described the organization of the collection.

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1. Daly, Lowrie J., “Microfilmed African Materials from the Archive of the Sacred Congregation “De Propaganda Fide,” History in Africa, 5(1978), pp. 361–64.

2. One can consult the general indexes in Rome or St. Louis for such material. It is also worthwhile to consult Nicola Kowalski, OMI, Inventario dell'Arohivio storiao della S. Congregazione “De Propaganda Fide” [Les Cahiers de la Nouvelle Revue de science missionaire, 17] (1961).

3. Archivio Provinciale dei PP Cappuccini di Provincia di Toscana, Filippo Bernardi da Firenze, “Ragguagli del Congo, cioè Viaggi fatti da’ Missionarij Apostolici Cappuccini della Prõva di Toscana a’ Regni del Congo, Angola e Matamba …” (25 March 1711) reproduces the letters of da Cortona and da Lucca as well as the long memoir of da Montesarchio. The original of some of da Cortona's letters and da Montesarchio's memoir are also in the archive, as are some other odd correspondence. Jean Cuvelier has published Lorenzo da Lucca's letters in French translation as Relations sur le Congo du P. Laurent de Lucques (Mémoire de l'lnstitute royale coloniale beige, 32/2, 1954); he and Olivier de Bouveignes published da Montesarchio's memoir in translation as Jérôme de Montesarchio, Apôtre du vieux Congo (Namur, n.d.). An Italian version of the same document is being published by Calogero Piazza. Serafino da Cortona's letters have been published in the original in part by Brásio, António, Monwnenta Missionaria Africana ,(1st ser., 11 vols, Lisbon, 19521971), vols. 10 and 11, passim; and in French translation by Jadin, Louis, L'anaien Congo d'après les arohives romaines, portugaises, neerlandaises et espagnoles ,[Mémoires de l'Institut historique beige de Rome, 1922], vol. 3, passim.

4. Gray, and Chambers, , Materials for West African History in Italian Archives ,(London, 1965); Giglio, and Loddini, , Guida delle Fonti per la Storia dell' Africa esistenti in Italia ,(2 vols.: Zug, 19731974).

5. Jadin, , “Recherches dans les archives et bibliothèques d'Italie et du Portugal sur l'ancien Congo,” Bulletin desséances, Academie royale du science coloniale, 2 (1956), pp. 954–56.

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History in Africa
  • ISSN: 0361-5413
  • EISSN: 1558-2744
  • URL: /core/journals/history-in-africa
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