Portuguese Chapel, Malindi : Vasco da Gama’s second expedition to India led to the establishment of a Portuguese factory, and its inhabitants built the Portuguese Chapel in Malindi, Kenya, sometime about 1502. It was the first church constructed by Christians in East Africa.
Following Vasco da Gama’s arrival in Malindi in 1498, the Portuguese established a presence there. He left several soldiers in Malindi to establish a place of rest for his second trip to India. Under a leader known as “Captain of the Malindi coast,” Portugal was in charge of the factory from 1509 until 1593.Along with the chapel, these buildings also housed warehouses, barracks, homes, and offices. Perhaps sixty Christians lived in the settlement. It’s possible that this was done on purpose despite the Chapel’s small size. Islam was the predominant religion at the time it was founded, and the town contained 17 Mosques. Three mosques were reportedly the only ones in use by 1542, though.
Francis Xavier, a Catholic missionary who would later become known as St. Francis Xavier, stopped in Malindi in 1542 on his way to Goa to bury a seaman in the Chapel cemetery. He stayed in Malindi for a few days before continuing on his voyage. The Chapel has a strong connection to St. Francis, and Catholics in Malindi regularly perform Mass there to commemorate the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, which is observed on 3 December, as well as during Easter and on the first Sunday in December.
The Chapel lasted for about a century until Mombasa was finally taken by the Portuguese and the Sultan of Malindi in 1589, at which point the sultan moved there. The Portuguese chose Mombasa as their base because it was simpler to protect and had a better harbour than Malindi. In 1593, the Portuguese constructed Fort Jesus in Mombasa. The main Portuguese base in East Africa over the ensuing century was Mombasa. Malindi was abandoned by the Portuguese, along with its chapel.
The chapel’s stone altar is its most noticeable interior feature. The altar was set up against a wall, as was customary at the time, and the priest said mass facing away from the congregation. Most likely an altar stone was meant for the altar table’s square central depression. The relic of a saint, such as a scrap of bone, would have been sealed inside of a small, moveable stone slab that included an inherent, man-made depression. Although it was not necessary for it to be a permanent part of the altar, Mass could not be said without such a stone and its relic. On the south wall, there is a nook that deserves special attention. Given that it has a straightforward cross sculpted into its back wall, it was definitely made for religious usage. Its most likely function was as a lavabo, a location for the ritual washing of the priest’s hands during mass, though additional applications are possible.
The chapel’s past is unknown after the Portuguese left in 1593. Malindi dwindled and nearly vanished throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was described as dilapidated and uninhabited. The Chapel itself may have been in ruins at different points in time, and it hasn’t been mentioned in history for almost 300 years.
James Bell Smith’s burial there following his murder on September 1st, 1894, marked the beginning of the graveyard’s resumption of use. Bell Smith served as the Imperial British East Africa Company’s first permanent administrator in Malindi from 1890 until 1895. After that, until 1958, the graveyard was sporadically utilised for funerals. This cemetery may have been bigger than it is now because it was once shaded by big trees. On the Portuguese cemetery, a baobab tree is said to have been planted. This could be the big tree that was originally in the chapel compound and is located across from the chapel.
This Chapel, which was made a gazetted monument in 1935, is said to be the earliest Christian church in East Africa. The Kenyan Society of Jesuits donated money to the newly established Malindi Museum Society in 1993 so they could help the National Museums of Kenya restore the chapel and cemetery. The garden was later renovated by the local chapter of the Kenya Horticultural Society. The Malindi Museum Society and Kenya Horticultural Society help the National Museums of Kenya care for and maintain the Chapel today. A ticket is required to enter the chapel. The four locations that are currently under Malindi Museum’s management are covered by a single ticket. These include the Portuguese Chapel, the House of Columns, the Vasco da Gama Pillar, and the Heritage Complex Museum.
Other tourist attractions in Malindi
This is one of Kenya’s most popular tourist destinations and one of its biggest mysteries. Deep within the Arabuko-Sokoke region’s verdant woodlands, close to the Indian Ocean basin, are the Gedi Ruins. Archaeologists still don’t understand the Gedi ruins. The Gedi ruins bear all the hallmarks of a prehistoric cosmopolitan settlement, demonstrating the complexity and sophistication of ancient African society. It was a city with streets, flowing water, and a sewage system that was thought to have been established in the first half of the 13th century. In addition to Venetian glass and other items from all over the world, archaeologists have also discovered Ming Chinese vases at the location. The Muslim residents of the coastal Kenyan town were worldly merchant traders who created an astonishing society, as evidenced by coral-brick homes, a palace, and even an exquisite mosque, all of which have since been reduced to ruins by time and climate. The Gedi Ruins, a location of significant archaeological interest, are the ideal place for Malindi’s explorers to visit.
Ken Snake Park
The Bio-Ken Snake Park is largely a research facility that focuses on studying reptiles, particularly snakes and snake bites. The park is home to East Africa’s largest and best-known snake collection. The journey is worthwhile for anyone looking for excitement and is only 35 minutes’ driving outside of Malindi.
Sand Dunes in Mambrui
They are a little over an hour’s drive north of Malindi. Around 4 or 5 pm is when you should go. Driving a car or walking the seashore are both options. The stroll to the dunes is wonderfully cooling thanks to the coastal breeze. Wait for the sunset if you can. You might be offered a tour by the beach’s proprietors. Your ability to negotiate sets the price in full.
The Falconry of Kenya
Visitors at The Falconry of Kenya, a private zoo, have the opportunity to come up close to a sizable collection of raptors and other animals. The 200-year-old tortoise, eagles, falcons, goshawks, owls, and peckers are just a few of the animals you can see in their cages. Visitors with greater courage may take advantage of the opportunity to handle, pet, and even feed the birds. Along with housing pythons, green mambas, and cobras, the Falconry of Kenya also features a snake enclosure. Crocodiles, monkeys, and monitor lizards are also present at the location.
In addition to selling garments made of silk and honey produced by the local Malindi population, Kipepeo is a market area where butterflies, moth pupae, and other insects are sold. Many national parks across the nation and the world receive the insects and butterflies that are hatched here. The Kipepeo Butterfly Project guarantees that the insects are butterflies that were bred, hatched, and sustainably kept on their farms. The market provides natural, organic products obtained from the Arabuko Sokoke woodlands. You can go there to learn more about the project and to buy some organic goods and treats.