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World Heritage Site

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Mbanza Kongo

Mbanza Kongo

Mbanza Kongo, vestiges of the capital of the former Kingdom of Kongo, represents the political and religious centre of a vast African kingdom which was transformed by the arrival of the Portuguese in the late 15th century.

The site (now a town of some 175,000 inhabitants) is located on a plateau. It comprises both archaeological remains of the precolonial period as well as colonial structures – often overlapping each other. The Kingdom of Kongo has strong intangible links with the slave trade and the early conversion of African kings to the Catholic religion.

Map of Mbanza Kongo


  • Cultural

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Site Info

Full name: Mbanza Kongo, vestiges of the capital of the former Kingdom of Kongo

Unesco ID: 1511

Inscribed: 2017

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 3   4  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2017 - Inscribed 
  • 2016 - Incomplete - not examined 


The site has 1 locations.

  • Mbanza Kongo


The site has 14 connections.


  • Vernacular architecture: : Some dwellings conserve the characteristic traits of the typical 19th-20th century Kongo house (Nzo). Built on rubble foundations, with earthen or brick walls (the brick may be sun-dried or fired); they are long houses with two main rooms under a pitched roof (originally covered with straw). Colonial elements were added (verandas, pillars), and later industrial elements (corrugated metal sheet) replaced the local materials. (AB ev)



  • Slavery: However, relations between the Kingdom and the Portuguese went sour as a result of the slave trade. Several texts were enacted by sovereigns from the early 16th century onwards to prevent the rise of the slave trade, which was robbing the territory of its vital forces, and condemning it to decline. It has been estimated that between 1600 and 1852, 3 million slaves were transported to Brazil alone from the coasts of Kongo-Angola that is an average of 12,000 slaves per year. it is not even known whether slaves were brought to Mbanza Kongo or whether they were collected elsewhere in the Kingdom. (AB ev)

Religion and Belief

  • Jesuits: The main archaeological site, Tadi dya Bukikwa (“inverted stone” or “that which has not yet revealed its contents” in the Kikongo language), corresponds in all probability to the Jesuit college (AB ev)
  • Sacred Forests or Groves: Precinct of the Sacred Tree (Yala Nkuwu), in whose shade the sovereigns delivered justice.
  • Cathedrals: Kulumbimbi is the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour, the first episcopal seat in Africa south of the Equator, and it forms the heart of the identity of the Kingdom of Kongo (AB ev)
  • Franciscans: Franciscan sisters’ complex (school, convent and Church of St. Anthony, built from 1933 onwards).
  • Legends and Folk Myths: Wiki: a popular legend that began in the 1680s that the king had buried his mother alive because she was not willing to give up an "idol" which she wore around her neck



World Heritage Process


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