Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

The Vicariate Apostolic of Dahomey, in West Africa, is territorially identical with the French colony of the same name. This colony has a coastline of about 75 miles on the Slave Coast of the Gulf of Guinea, whence it stretches northwards to the French Sudan ; it is bounded on the east by the British territory of Lagos and the River Ocpara, and on the west by the German territory of Togo and the river Mono. Its area is estimated at about 59,000 square miles, and its total population in 1902 was probably a little less than half a million. The chief exports of the colony are palm kernels and palm-oil. Its indigenous population is of the pure Negro stock, chiefly of the Fon subdivision of the Ewe family. About the year 1728 the territory now known as Dahomey was subject to three native dynasties, one of which at that date conquered the other two and set up its own despotism under the present territorial designation. This despotism, tempered only by the fear inspired by Fetishism, of which Dahomey was said to be the last extant stronghold at the end of the nineteenth century, ended with the capture and exile of King Behanzim by a French military expedition in 1892.

The Faith was first preached in Dahomey in the year 1660, when certain French residents introduced Franciscan missionaries. Against this Catholic enterprise the English adventurers successfully combined with native priests of Fetishism. In 1674 Father Gonsalvez, a Dominican, with two companions, was poisoned; an Augustinian, who visited the coast in 1699, escaped death by flight. No further attempt to plant the Faith in Dahomey is recorded until 1860, when Fathers Borghero and Fernandez, of the then newly founded Lyons Society of African Missions, arrived. Their institute has carried on the work ever since. The French Government, in 1864, obtained in behalf of the missionaries a large territorial concession at Porto Novo, where a flourishing station was soon established. The mission of Agwe, now one of the most flourishing in the vicariate, began its existence in 1874.

The first erection of a Vicariate Apostolic of Dahomey was in 1860, when its jurisdiction was defined to include all the country between the Rivers Niger and Volta. In 1870, however, the title of this vicariate was changed to "The Benin Coasts"; and in 1882 it was divided, the region west of the River Ocpara being then erected into the Prefecture Apostolic of Dahomey, from which, again, the German territory of Togo was ecclesiastically separated in 1892, and the adjacent British possessions in 1894. By decree dated 22 April, 1901, this prefecture of Dahomey was erected into the present Vicariate Apostolic of that name, which is thus seen to differ territorially from that erected in 1860.

The residence of the vicar Apostolic is at the coast town of Whydah, formerly the native capital and a notorious centre of Dahomeyan Fetishism. "Missiones Catholicae" (1907), the official triennial handbook of the Propaganda, gives the following statistics of Dahomey: Total Catholic population, 8900; missionary stations, 6; churches with resident pastor, 4; chapels, 11; total number of priests, 32; catechists, 15; houses of religious women (Sisters of the Queen of the Apostles ), 4, with an aggregate of 20 religious; schools for boys, 13 with 1330 pupils; schools for girls, 4, with 480 pupils.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • St. Saturninus: Saint of the Day for Sunday, November 29, 2015
  • President likens Syrian refugees to pilgrims on Mayflower in ...
  • BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big ...
  • The Miracle Prayer HD Video
  • Prayer For Courage HD Video
  • Daily Readings for Sunday, November 29, 2015
  • 'Black Friday' leaving bruises as shoppers trample each other for ...

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 33:14-16
14 "Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall fulfil the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
4 DIRECT me in your ways, Yahweh, and teach me your paths.5 ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
25 'There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations ... Read More

Reading 2, First Thessalonians 3:12--4:2
12 May the Lord increase and enrich your love for each other and for all, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 29th, 2015 Image

St. Saturninus
November 29: St. Saturninus Bishop of Toulouse and Martyr ... Read More