- Historic Sites
Another eyewitness takes us on another voyage, three and a half centuries earlier—this one around the world …
October 1969 | Volume 20, Issue 6
These girls were very beautiful, and almost white and as tall as ours. They were naked, except that from the waist to the knees they wore a garment made from the said palm cloth, covering their nature. And some were quite naked, having long black hair and a small veil round their head, and they go always unshod. The prince made us dance with three of them who were quite naked. And we had refreshment there, and then we returned to the ship.…
On Saturday following, [the captain] caused a platform to be built on the square, decked with tapestry and palm branches, because the king had promised our captain to become a Christian on Sunday.…
The captain’s initiation of the king and his people into our faith
On Sunday morning the fourteenth day of April we went ashore, being forty men, of whom two armed men marched in front, with the banner of our Emperor.… The captain and the king embraced each other.… Then very joyfully we went up to the platform, where the king and the captain were seated on two chairs, one covered with red velvet, and the other with violet. The leading men were on cushions, and the others on mats after the fashion of the country.
Then the captain began to speak to the king through the interpreter, to initiate him into the faith of Jesus Christ, [saying] that he thanked God for having inspired him to be a Christian, and that he would vanquish his enemies more than before. And the king replied that he wished to be a Christian, but that some of his chief men would not obey him, saying that they were men as he was.
Then our captain summoned all the chief men of the king, and told them that if they did not obey the king (as he himself did) he would have them all killed, and would give all their goods to the king. And they all replied that they would obey him.…
Then the captain told him [the king] that he was clad all in white to show them the pure love that he bore them. And they all replied that they knew not how to answer him for his fair words. And so with these good words the captain took the king by the hand, and they went up on the platform. And when he came to baptize him, he told him that he would name him Dam Charles, as was the name of the emperor his lord. The prince he named Dam Ferrand, after the brother of the said emperor. To another chief he gave the name Fernand, like himself. And the king of Mazzaua, John. To the Moor, he gave the name Christophe. And to each of the names a name of his choice. So were baptized, before the mass, fifty men.…
After dinner, our chaplain and some others of us went on shore to baptize the queen. And she came with forty ladies, and we led them on to the platform, then we caused them to sit on’ cushions, and the women about the queen, until the priest was ready. Meanwhile we showed her a lady carved in wood, holding her child (which was very well made), and a cross. The sight of this gave her a greater wish to be a Christian, and asking for baptism she was baptized, and named Joanna, like the emperor’s mother … and all the others had each her name.
That day we baptized eight hundred persons, men, women, and children. The queen was young and beautiful, covered with a white and black cloth. She had very red mouth and nails, and wore on her head a large hat made of palm leaves, after the fashion of the Pope’s. And she never goes into any place without one of these crowns. Then she begged us to give her that wooden image, to put in place of the idols. Which she did. And then she went away.…
One day the captain-general asked the king and the others why it was that they did not burn their idols, as they had promised him when they became Christians, and why they sacrificed so much flesh to them. And they answered that they did this not for themselves, but for a sick man, that the idols might give him health. And he had not spoken for four days, and he was the prince’s brother, and the most valiant and wise man in the whole island.
Then the captain told them to burn the idols and to believe in Jesus Christ, and that if this was not true they could cut off the captain’s head. The king replied that he would do so, for he believed truly in Jesus Christ. Whereon we made a procession from the square to the sick man’s house, as well as we could, and there we found him unable to speak or to move.
Then we baptized him, and two wives whom he had, and ten maidens. Then the captain had him asked how he was, and he at once spoke, and said that by the grace of our God he was very well. And this was a very manifest miracle in our time.…
Those people go naked, wearing only a piece of cloth made of palm leaves around their shameful parts. They have as many wives as they wish, but there is always a chief one.
The males, both large and small, have the testis of their member pierced from one side to the other, with a pin of gold or of tin as thick as a goose feather, and at each end of this pin some have a star-shaped decoration like a button, and other ones like the head of a cart nail.
Often I wished to see that of some young men and old men, because I could not believe it. In the middle of this pin or tube is a hole through which they urinate, and the pin and the stars always remain firm, holding the member stiff.