Here are the National Monuments of Seychelles! A gallery created especially for you by Tony Mathiot.
The unique value of each one them resides in its historical, architectural or geological interest.
Whilst some will galvanize and revitalize interest and concern for our architectural patrimony, others constitute powerful punctuation marks in the history of our political and social evolution and development. Indeed, most of these monuments symbolize various chapters in our history. A few are fascinating aspects of our geology that constitute the resplendent tropical beauty of our islands.
As you indulge yourself into the following pages, you will discover aspects of information on each monument that will fascinate, mystify and astound you. Yes, some pages might exude a hint of cinnamon or vanilla, luring you into the mists of nostalgia. Others might provoke the visceral sensation of Seychellois patriotism because they all form a pageantry of our country’s attractions that inspire you to appreciate the importance of our National Heritage and to cherish the unparalleled splendour of our motherland.
Of course, the valuable importance of our National Monuments does not end with the last page, but it continues with our affirmation to preserve and conserve our National Monuments for posterity.
A noble responsibility that should be passed down to succeeding generations, ad infinitum.
PIERRE POIVRE BUST (in Victoria)
Cinnamon. That most beloved of all our spices. It is indeed de rigeur for any creole curry that is cooked with coconut milk to be flavoured with a few cinnamon leaves. It grows as wild vegetation from the coastal plateaux of Mahé to the mountain summits of Praslin and La Digue. Yes, it’s impossible to think of our islands without the spicy cinnamon.
And yet it is not endemic to the Seychelles. We owe the blessing of cinnamomum zeylanicum to Pierre Poivre (1719-1786), a French naturalist and administrator of Mauritius and Reunion (1767 to 1773) whose daring disposition and strong-willed character has made him a redoubtable figure in the history of Seychelles and one of the most chivalrous men of his age.
He grew up in Lyon where he spent most of his childhood in his father’s shop. At 16 years he joined the Missionnaries of St. Joseph, an order of Jansenist convictions founded by a 17th century surgeon Jacques crenet (1603-1666) to recruit missionaries for oriental countries. At twenty, he joined the societé des Mission Etrangères de Paris, founded in 1663 by mgr. Francis Pallu. His keenness for learning and extroverted disposition made him an eligible candidate to disseminate the doctrines of the Roman Catholic abroad. So in January 1741, the young vivacious seminarian traveled to Macao which was then ruled by Manchus in the Ta Ch’ing Dynasty. However, Pierre Poivre was soon to be in a troublesome state of affairs. Since 1722 with the death of k’ang-Hi, Christianism was in a precarious situation that saw the expulsion of priests. Emperor Yung – Tcheng was hostile to foreign missionaries. When he arrived at Canton in the South of China, Poivre was wrongfully imprisoned, a victim of gross iniquity. It was months later in early 1745 that he was freed and decided to return to France.
During the journey home his boat the Dauphin, was attacked by two English ship Deptford and Preston, and in the ensuing battle, his right arm was so badly injured that it had to be amputated later. In 1749, he left France to travel extensively abroad. Being an avid botanist he brought shipments of spice plants from places he visited to Ile de France (Mauritius).
During the 18th century when spice was a rare and precious commodity, the Dutch occupied Indonesia, moluccas (known as the spice islands) and Ceylon, the original source of cinnamon.
As European demand for spices soared and prices escalated, the Dutch luxuriated in the triumph of becoming Europe’s most important trade power and exerted tyranny over their jealous competitors. The death penalty was imposed on clandestine importers of spices from the Dutch East Indies.
But Pierre Poivre was determined to break the Dutch monopoly on spices. In fact, his ambition was to duplicate the exploits of the Dutch in the Indian Ocean where the trade of spices was a primary source of colonial wealth.
In 1771, in brazen defiance of the death sentence, he personally undertook a couple of expeditions to the Dutch East Indies and manage to smuggle out samples of spices plants and most important of all, cinnamon seedlings which he brought back to Mauritius where he had already created the Jardins des Pamplemousses, with the help of the Naturalist Philibert Commerson (1727-1773). Early in 1770, he had encouraged Brayer du Barré, a fomer French Minister to come to Seychelles to start a small spice garden on St. Anne Island. That project which constituted the first establishment in Seychelles came to no avail for various reasons among which were Barré’s unbridled enthusiasm to engage himself in many other commercial ventures to the detriment of the spices and because the attitude of the administrator of the settlement was not particularly congenial to him. As for Poivre, he was resolutely committed to grow spices in Seychelles. Upon learning that on Mahé, the salubrious climate and the soil composition were propitious for a spice garden; he dispatched his most trusted agent Antoine Gillot, accompanied by forty workers and a small contingent of slaves. The spice garden Gillot created was situated at Anse Royal in the South of Mahé. It was called Jardin du Roi the king being of course Louis XV. It was 1772; sixteen years after the Seychelles had been taken possession of by the French. Cloves, nutmegs pepper and cinnamon grew and flourished for sometime until one day in May 1780 when the spice garden was deliberately destroyed by a monumental act of blunder. The commandant of Seychelles, Charles Routier de Romainville mistook an approaching French ship for an English one and ordered that the valuable spice garden be burnt completely to prevent the enemy from acquiring the precious spices if the English succeeded in capturing the island. Indeed, it was a preposterous calamity! The conflagration destroyed the entire spice garden but as good luck would have it, bul bul (merl) blue footed pigeon (pizon olande) had already propagated cinnamon seeds in the hills of Mahé where soon after, cinnamon trees in resplendent profusion became part of the natural scrubland vegetation of the entire island.
It was in 1908 that Seychelles exported its first cargo of 740,123 kilos of cinnamon at Rs.50, 166. By 1921, with a population of just above 25,000, Seychelles had 67 cinnamon leaf oil distilleries and all of the crown lands on Mahé and Praslin were leased for cinnamon cultivation.
On the 2nd October 1972, the year that Ceylon became the republic of Sri Lanka, this bust of Pierre Poivre was unvalued in the grounds of the Supreme Court building to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the introduction of cinnamon to Seychelles by a man who never even set foot on our shores!
BICENTENNIAL MONUMENT (in Victoria)
Today, our passion for cinnamon is as fiery as the flames that destroyed the spice garden of Jardin du Roi more than two hundred years ago.
Like a strange and singular white tripetalous flower frozen in permanent bloom, this geometric sculpture comprising of three pairs of extending wings tapering upwards in exquisite curves is a patriotically symbolic monument here at the roundabout intersection of 5th of June and Independence Avenues in Victoria.
It was inaugurated, rather belatedly, on the 4th of June 1979 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the town of Victoria since its foundation in 1778 by the Frenchman Charles Routier de Romainville who arrived in his brig L’Hélène at Mahé in October of that year, accompanied by a small contingent of men. The town they built near the banks of the River St. Louis became known as L’Etablissment du Roi, the king of course being Louis XVI (1754-1793). It was later renamed Victoria in 1841(after Queen Victoria of England).
This tripartite monument symbolizes the triadic origin of the Seychellois race: the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe. Indeed, one of charming characteristics of our Creole identity comes from our mixed harmony European, Asian and African ancestry. The population of our archipelago is a cosmopolitan brew of many races, as a result of the interbreeding among descendants of different ethnic groups.
Conceived and created by the Italian artist Lorenzo Appiani (1939-1995) these seemingly enigmatic shapes made of conglomerate gravel in a mortar matrix re-inforced with steel. Workers of the Laxmanbhai construction firm assisted in their construction and installation. It’s albeit remote resemblance to avian wings has earned it the name moniman twa lezel (three-winged monument) among many locals. If indeed they do like birds then they must represent our beloved white-tailed tropical bird (Payanke).
Appiani who quipped at the inauguration ceremony, ‘birds were in fact THE first visitors to Seychelles’!
THE BOTANICAL GARDENS (at Mont Fleuri
)Half a mile away to the south of the center of Victoria, an entrance with iron gates leads into the resplendent botanical gardens. Covering an area of 15 acres, these grounds offer the visitor an inkling of the marvellous beauty of the flora of the Seychelles. For here, one discovers the 6 endemic palms among of the exotic palms, endemic as well as indigenous exotic trees together with a variety of colourful ornamentals. There is also a large pen with a collection of giant tortoises from Aldabra. The decision to establish a botanical garden here at Mont Fleuri goes way back to 1895 when the colonial administrator at that time Thomas Risely Griffith (1889-1895) made known his conviction that a botanical experimental station where specimens of various plants could be grown and then distributed to land owners would help in the propagation of fruit trees and hard timber, that in the long term would be of economic importance to the country.
In 1900 his successor Sir Ernest Beckham Sweet Escott (1899-1903) contacted the director of the Royal Gardens at Kew in England to ask for financial assistance and advice in establishing the gardens. On the 4th of February 1901, a thirty-one year old Mauritian botanist Paul Evenor Rivalz Dupont (1870-1938) arrived in Seychelles and was appointed curator of the botanic station.
With his steadfastness of purpose and passionate interest for plants Paul Evenor Rivalz Dupont eventually accomplished the administrator’s ambitious scheme. By 1904 when Seychelles welcomed its second governor William Edward Davidson (1859-1923), the botanical gardens were fully established. In the succeeding years Mr. Dupont traveled extensively to places like Ceylon, Malaysia and India and brought back more than two hundred different plants including fruit trees, palms, timber trees and ornamentals that today form part of Seychelles’ lush vegetation. In 1924 he was appointed as Director of Agriculture. In April 1928, he married Josephine Marie Felicie Yvonne Sauvage. He left Seychelles in 1935 and died on 20th January 1938.
A stone monument pays tribute to the invaluable contributions that he made to our agricultural prosperity. The monument also venerates the memory of Desmond Foster Vesey Fitzgerald (1910-1947) an Irish entomologist who came to Seychelles in 1936 to assist the government in the eradication of scale insects which had infested coconut plantations on Mahé and threatened to destroy the coconut industry which for the most part of the early twentieth century was an important economic mainstay for the islands. Mr. Fitzgerald utilized a method that to the delightful stupefaction of the landowners put a definitive end to melitomma insulare (the larvae of which lived in coconut trunks) that most widespread and dreaded source of vexation for landowners. He introduced 3 species of ladybirds which fed on the scale insects and consequently saved thousands of coconut palms from infestation. Included among the six endemic palms of Seychelles growing in the botanical gardens is a female coco-de-mer tree which was planted by the Duke of Edinburg, Prince Philip on the 19th October 1956.
The botanical treasures here are myriad: towering araucarias (known in creole as pye sapin) which are coniferous evergreens whose history extends back 200 million years to the appearance of the early dinosaurs, majestic travellers’ trees (bannann vwayazer) from Madagascar. Their leaf stalks can hold up to 2 litres of water, giant allocasias which are water lilies that grow up to 3 metres high, and the preciously rare and endemic Wrights gardenia (bwa citron) which was planted by the famous member of The Beatles, the late George Harrison on 12th December 2000. This particular tree which usually erupts into bloom after a heavy rainfall is named after a British biologist Percival Wright who discovered it on Aride Island in the 1860’s.
On Friday 3rd June 2044, a historical ceremony will take place here beneath the giant mango tree. For here, there lies buried, a canister containing poems and essays written by school children as acts of contrition and repentance, on behalf of the Seychellois nation who onced too often has advertently or inadvertently caused irreversible harm to nature and the environment. It will be exhumed and revealed to their grand children.
The canister was consigned to the ground at noon on 3rd June 1994 in the presence of the late Danielle Jorre de St. Jorre (1941-1997) who was Minister for the Environment and other government officials and foreign dignitaries.
Many visitors who come to Seychelles visit these botanical gardens on guided tours or independently.
THE DIAMOND JUBILEE FOUNTAIN (in Victoria)
She is remembered as having been of a severe and stern disposition. With her dignity and grace, she epitomized the moral severity and the pompous conservatism that characterized the ‘VICTORIAN’ era. Once upon a time Seychelles was a part of Her Majesty’s dominions. In 1841 the town of Victoria was thus named in her honour of the occasion of her marriage to Prince Albert. (Albert Françis Charles Augustus Emmanuel of Saxe – Coburg-Gotha (1819-1861). Victoria Alexandrina was then 22 years old.
The Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Fountain which was created by Messrs. Doulton of London was unveiled, rather belatedly, on the 5th January 1900, by Lady Sweet-Escott, the wife of the administrator to celebrate 60 years of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1899). She was actually crowned on 28th June 1838. When she died on 22nd January 1901, she had completed the longest reign- 63 years – of any other English monarch. Besides our own town, her memory is enshrined in a waterfall and a lake in Africa, a river and a city state in Australia, a mountain in north western Burma, an island in the Artic Ocean and the giant water-lily of tropical South America, Victoria amazonica.
The Jubilee drinking fountain is made of porcelain decorated with elaborate patterns, with a water tap and a basin on three sides. It is surmounted by a 30cm statuette of Queen Victoria which is believed to be the smallest representation of Her Majesty’s likeness in the world-in diametrical contrast to the life-size one that stands on Sir Newton William Street at Port Louis in Mauritius which was inaugurated by the Duchess of York and Cornwall on 5th August 1901.
In 1977 the authorities, appreciating the antiquarian artistic values of this unique statuette decided that it would be circumspect to remove it and place it in secured inside the National History Museum. Few people walking past the Supreme Court building in Victoria noticed that the statuette of the diminutive Empress was actually missing.
Well, then again not many people apart from the curio vendors along Independence Avenue knew that you could slake your thirst at the quaint little basins!
After sixteen years of neglect it was decided that the Jubilee Fountain should be repaired and restored. In early 1993 an American artist and ceramicist Lucy Hickerson and a curio stall owner Senville Henry undertook the painstaking task of restoring the porcelainware, cleaning the tiles and removing and repairing the pipe work.
A replica of the statuette in alabaster was moulded by the resident British sculptor Tom Bowers to replace the original one. It was a donation by the British Government on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (enthroned in 1952).
The fountain was ‘re-inaugurated’ at 5.30p.m on Wednesday 2nd June 1993.
The Victorian era is long over. But this little monument will remain a cherished treasure here in Victoria for succeeding generations of Seychellois people to inherit, and to remind them that once upon a time our resplendent islands were sapphires among jewels in the crown of the Hanoverian Monarchy!
THE VICTORIA CLOCKTOWER (Lorloz)
Yes, it is indisputably the most potent historical feature that dates back to the colonial era.
In 1901 when Queen Victoria died, Seychelles which formed part of the Vast British Empire was ruled as a dependency of Mauritius and Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott (1857-1941) was its administrator. He proposed that a building which would serve as a community hall be erected in Victoria as a memorial to the late Queen.
The legislative council voted unanimously for the sum of Rs 10,000 to be raised for the building. This was to be paid for partly by public subscription and partly by government. In 1901, the population of Seychelles stood at 19,237 and most inhabitants led a hard scrabble life as plantation workers or fishermen. The average salary for an estate labourer was Rs. 6 per month. Because of the boom in the vanilla industry which was selling at Rs32.00 per kilo, it was only the dozen or so landowners who could afford to make patriotic contributions to the fund, but then again not with the philanthropic largesse of today’s business entrepreneurs. Fortunately indeed! – Because today, we would certainly not be in possession of our little Big Ben!
By January 1902, the sum collected was Rs.3,233.81, woefully inadequate. Less than half of the amount required for the proposed building. Almost immediately Sweet Escott came up with an alternative idea that his administration enthusiastically approved. And in June, the Queen Victoria memorial committee under the chairmanship of Herchenroder, who was judge at that time unanimously adopted the resolution “that a clock and clock tower be erected in Victoria in loving memory of her late most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria”. The Legislative council gave approval for the available sum of Rs.6, 447.62cts to be used as funds for the memorial. After studying drawings and diagrams of various clocks and clock towers, Sweet Escott opted for one similar to that which had been placed at the entrance of Victoria Station on Vauxhall Bridge road in London in 1892 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. In July, at the request of Ernest Sweet Escott, the Secretary of the colonies authorized the crown agents in London to purchase the clock tower.
The clock tower, made of cast iron was executed by Messrs. Gillet & Johnson of Crydon, England. The firm had a good reputation for making that particular design of clock tower in three different sizes. These were known as “Little Big Bens” because of their obvious similarity to the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament in London.
The clock tower arrived dismantled in nine cases by mail steamer – but not all together. On the 11th February 1903, seven cases arrived, the other two having been mistakenly unloaded at Mauritius! Those arrived a month later.
Naturally the clock tower needed to stand in the middle of town, and the centre of our little capital was of course at the cross roads where the four roads coming from South East, North and West meet and intersect: Francis Rachel Street, State House Avenue, Albert Street and Independence Avenue.
The erection of the clock tower took nine days to complete. Winches and pulleys were used to hoist, assemble and connect the various parts. Measuring 25 feet in height, and 3 feet by 3 feet in width, with each dial being 2½ feet in diameter, it was no small feat.
The last rivet of the clock tower was driven on 27th March.
And so it must have been an excited crowd of inhabitants who gathered there in town on that Wednesday afternoon of 1st April 1903.
Magnificently draped with the flags of the United Kingdom, the clock tower was unveiled by Ernest Bickham Sweet Escott who solemnly declared it a memorial to Queen Victoria Alexandrina.
There was no pageantry, no flourish of trumpets. Nevertheless, the ceremony was one of stateliness and dignified splendour. After the administrator’s magniloquent speech, the crowd applauded and cheered in patriotic elation.
The clock tower which was originally black was painted lustrous silver in 1935 during celebrations to commemorate King George V’s Jubilee.
And did it chime? No…
Apparently, since the very first day, the apparatus that should have struck the bell never worked. The sound of its bell was first heard on the 17th September 1999 after the clock tower had undergone a major reparation and restoration work that included the replacement of its spring-driven mechanism by an electronic one, which interestingly enough was obtained from the still existing makers of the clock tower, Messrs. Gillet & Johnson.
In the early 1960’s a mechanic named Gilbert Palmyre (1912-1992) was assigned the noble responsibility of maintaining the clock tower, a task he fulfilled with devotion and meritorious assiduity. In 1978, he passed the crank to William Lespoir, another mechanic barely out of his teens who has been caring for our beloved Lorloz with an almost proprietary affection for these last thirty-three years.
Indeed, the inauguration of the Victoria clock tower in our little capital on that April Wednesday in 1903 was a precursory event that introduced a new chapter in the history of our islands.
Four months later, on the 13th of August, Seychelles was separated from Mauritius to be governed as an Independent crown colony. In that same year, on the 9th of November on the occasion of King Edward VII’s (1841-1910) birthday Ernest Bickham Sweet Escott was knighted and sworn in as the colony’s first governor. So throughout all those decades, like a living thing the clock tower has witnessed our gradual evolution from an island protectorate to a Republican sovereignty.
It was more than a million hours ago that the clock tower was presented to our forefathers. Today as the architectural landscape of our town keeps on changing with multi-storey buildings of concrete and glass dominating the skyline and pedestrian crossings and traffic lights controlling and directing our busy and hectic lives, the clock tower still asserts itself as a fundamental pulse in the heart of our town, because it has stood the test of time.
THE MISSION RUINS (at Sans Soucis)
An old place of mournful beauty and sweet peaceful gloom that arouses a titillating sensation of poignancy in the visitor.
These are the ruins of the Industrial school established in 1875 by the Church Missionary, Society for the children of liberated slaves. It was called Venn’s town after Henry Venn (1796-1873), an Anglican evangelist who worked for the Church Missionary Society which was founded in 1799 and which established among many others, orphan asylums at Pamplemousses in Mauritius and at Freetown in Sierra Leone.
During the eighteenth century thousands of Africa slaves crossed the Atlantic in chains to become the foundation of the New World’s economy. Many hundreds ended up on the shores of Seychelles and were used as labourers on cotton and coffee plantations. In 1814 Britain took possession of the Seychelles, and even though the Bill of abolition of slave trade that Parliament had adopted in 1807 applied throughout the British Empire, the nefarious and lucrative slave trade continued in Seychelles until the Emancipation act of 1833 which stated that all slaves in British territory should be freed came into effect. However, along the East African coast, the slave trade continued unabated. Slaves were brought from the interiors of Africa – most of them were obtained for a few yards of calico cloth! …. taken to the Western side of Lake Nyassa in Malawi and then shipped to Kilwa on the coast of Tanzania where they were taken to the slave market in Zanzibar and sold for around £100 to £120 each to Arab and Persian dealers.
Determined to put an end to this illicit and despicable activity in human flesh, British Navy Ships scoured the waters of the Indian Ocean and intercepted Arab dhows and confiscated their cargoes of slaves which they were brought to Mahé.
It was on the 14th May of 1861 that the first shipment of 252 liberated slaves arrived in Seychelles on HMS Lyra commanded by Capt. Old-field. From then on 1874 they kept arriving on various ‘slave busters’ such as Nymph, Vulture, Ariel, Thefis. One notable British captain, G.L Sullivan led his ships HMS Daphne and HMS Pantaloon on many of these dangerous rescuing operations.
Between 1861 and 1874 a total of 2,816 liberated African slaves were taken from Arab dhows and brought ashore to Mahé.
In May 1875 the civil commissioner of Seychelles Charles Spenser Salmon (1832-1896) agreed to lease the allocated 50 acres of land at Capucin Sans Soucis to the Church Missionary Society – but only after the governor of Mauritius, Arthur Purves Phayre (1812-1885) had traveled to Seychelles in October to draw up the conditions under which he would authorize the assignment of the land, conditions which inter alia stipulated that an annual rent would have to be paid for over a period of ten years and that no child over 16 years of age should be retained against his/her will.
The Industrial Institution at Venn’s Town was officially opened on 20th March of 1876 and was under the superintendence of Rev. William Barlett Chancellor the Swahili-speaking acting civil chaplain. By the end of 1877 there were 55 children, 35 boys and 20 girls living in the settlement. The school teachers were Mr Robert Pickwood who was a former police officer in Victoria and Mr Henry Morris Warry (1858-1927).
The main buildings at first consisted of a large and spacious Mission cottage which was a bungalow with a verandah, two dormitories of 100ft by 25ft, one for the boys and one for the girls, a few outhouses, kitchens, washrooms and a dozen huts for the labourers who were engaged to clear the land. The buildings were constructed of timber and covered with pandanus leaves. Water was obtained from the nearby river by means of bamboo pipes and stored in basins of limestone coral.
In 1885 Warry and his wife left and were succeeded by Mr Edwin Lucock and his wife Martha who took charge of the Institution until 1889. Although the routine at the mission was devised to cater to the welfare and education of the children, there were incidences of harsh treatment which caused some boys and girls to run away.
They woke up early for prayers and breakfast after which they attended lessons which consisted mainly of bible stories and psalm-singing. In the afternoon, they engaged in woodwork and tended the coffee, cocoa and vanilla plantations, the revenue from which went to the upkeep of the mission settlement.
A cemetery further away accommodated the little bodies of those who tragically succumbed to the then incurable infirmities of health such as diphtheria or appendicitis.
Edwin and Martha Lucock’s two years old son Sidney died in April 1888 and was buried there.
During its seventeen years of existence many visitors to Seychelles trudged up the mountain path to the Industrial school at Venn’s Town to discover how the African children were getting along. One of the most famous was the Victorian Lady, painter and globetrotter Marianne North (1830 – 1890). She arrived in Seychelles on 13th October 1882 and during her three months sojourn she spent three glorious weeks with the Warrys here at the mission cottage. She was fascinated by the forest scenery and amazed by the sprightly and cheerful frolic of the little African children. Indeed, it was also here that the fifty-three year old artist/adventurer discovered the stand of magnificent towering Kapisen trees which were later to be named after her: Northea seychellarum. She made many paintings of Venn’s Town that today give us a vivid impression of how the place actually looked then. Forty-three of her paintings are in the Natural History Museum in Victoria.
The mission at Venn’s Town closed in 1894, because by then, more schools were being built on Mahé which accommodated the African children, and the slave dealers had ceased their ignoble transactions. Seventy-seven years later… on March 20th 1972 when Queen Elizabeth II came to Seychelles for the inauguration of our International airport, she was driven up here to visit these melancholy ruins and to open the Mission Viewing Lodge which treats the visitors to a breathtaking Panorama of the east coast below. One cannot help wondering somehow wistfully if those sprightly little souls saw the same view back then during those days of Venn’s Town….
‘ZONM LIB’ MONUMENT (in Victoria)
To all those who behold it, the man of metal, with arms raised, freed from manacles signifies the visceral sensation of FREEDOM! Yes. Laliberte!
Indeed, this is the monumental exclamation mark that came at the end of the last paragraph of the story of the Seychellois people’s quest for freedom.
The first chapters are shrouded in the mists of history but wherever and whenever the mists clear up, one can catch intermittent glimpses of a few pages of this powerful and moving saga… to gradually become engrossed in the reality of the past…
The year 1811 – Seychelles becomes a British possession and colonialism takes root, grows and thrives in all its ramifications… Liberated slaves protest against labour exploitations. It’s 1903, and Seychelles becomes a separated colony and gets its own governor…. There is abject poverty among the lower class who have to toil and sweat on coconut and cinnamon plantations for a pittance. The population is 19,243. The First World War, and around 800 Seychellois men are recruited and sent to east Africa to fight the Germans. Less than 400 return… The Second World War… the Seychelles Pioneer Corps are in North Africa and Salermo. Hundreds perished. The 1950’s… governors come and go. There is widespread social injustice, disparity of wealth…racism… exclusionism. The 1960’s… the smouldering flames of revolution foment the birth of Political parties – SIUP… SPUP… DP… Poverty… illiteracy… social discrimination. The Seychelles Transport and General Workers Union is formed… the struggle begins. Sept 64 – The first strike lasts 10 weeks… 1967 – Universal adult suffrage… Governing Council general elections… December 68, Teacher’s demonstration the people calls for Independence… protest marches… revolutionary fervour boils… 1970 Legislative Assembly General Elections… Self government in 1975… the promise of hope… 1976 Independence… celebrations… disappointment… 1977 – 5th June 2 a.m… dawn brings Freedom! Triumph! and Victory!
The Liberation monument of ‘Zonm Lib’ was inaugurated on 5th of June 1978 by the President of the Second Republic France Albert Rene (1935- ) on the occasion of the 1st anniversary of the Coup d’etat which finally put an end to colonialist oppression and injustice. Yes, it is indeed an important punctuation mark in the history of Seychelles.
Every year on the5th of June, a ceremony takes place here, where wreaths and flowers are laid by Seychelles citizens and foreign dignitaries.
The ‘Zonm Lib’ symbolizes the glory of our Independent nationhood and the certitude that the sun will always rise tomorrow.
‘He stands victorious and free
And fearless in dignity’.
THE STATE HOUSE (in Victoria)
It seems like so long ago when our beloved republic was part of the British Empire which comprised of a heterogeneous collection of territories and peoples across the globe who was united by common obedience to the House of Hanover and later the House of Windsor.
And like other British protectorates, Seychelles was under the authority of a Governor and his Legislative Council.
And at the State House formerly called Government House, is where they stayed during their tenure.
This building set in resplendent surroundings of landscaped gardens with sloping lawns and shrubberies is evidently one of stately elegance. Twin porticos, white pillars, and balustrades, and a winding staircase with polished newel posts typify the utter sublimity of Edwardian refinement and colonial opulence.
It was designed by William Marshall Vaudin, the son of the civil chaplain Adolphus Vaudin. He was born in Seychelles in 1866 while his father was posted here. His brilliant and aptitude for hard work earned him various important posts in the civil service including Head of Public works Department and Treasurer and controller of customs.
This magnificent colonial residence was constructed seven years after Seychelles became a separate colony in 1903. It’s, first tenant was our Second Governor, William Edward Davidson (b 1859-d 1923), who moved into it in 1912 and had the honour of inaugurating it eventhough its completion was yet to be finished. This came in 1913 and by then the cost of its entire construction had arrived at Scr. 76,411. The adjoining lad of 22 acres was known as “Terrain Dugand”. Sixteen Governors have spent some years of their lives here save for Sir Malcom Stevenson who passed away during the third month of his tenure on 27th November 1927.
During the colonial era, many colourful social functions were held here. Yes, those sumptuous banquets, cocktails and lavish tea parties that typify the gaiety of the pleasant consequences that were the perks of the British Governor during the days of Empire – because one should not forget that there were always the visiting British dignitaries and foreign allies to entertain. In 1966 the British actor and composer who wrote “mad dogs and Englishmen” Noel Coward (1899 – 1973) spent three weeks here. He was the guest of Governor Julian Edward George, the Earl of Oxford and Asquith. The last colonial festive reception at Government House took place on 27th June 1976 when around 2,000 guests attended a soirée on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s 50th birthday. Among them were the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester who had come to Seychelles expressly to represent her Highness at the feast of Independence on the 29th June. The reception was hosted by Collin Hamilton Allen who indeed must have been one among the few British Governors to entertain others at his own valedictory gala!
The building was extensively renovated in 1975 when Seychelles achieved self-government and Independence was imminent.
In 1977 in conformity with our post – Independence socialist ethos, the building ceased to be the home of the chief executive. It became solely his office and housed the various department and agencies affiliated with it. With the coming of the Third Republic, the building underwent extensive renovations and modification that did not alter its original architectural design while the President’s office moved into a new location nearby. The afternoon of 28th May 2007 saw the grand re-opening of the State House by President James Alix Michel when hundreds of invited guests got the thrill of discovering its splendid interiors.
Nowadays, it serves as the venue for diplomatic functions.
Yes, the state house remains a dignified and majestic feature of Victoria, having witnessed its evolution from a small colonial township to a modern capital and the Political events and changing circumstances that have shaped our evolution… and that of future generations.
It is a cherished souvenir of our island’s history.
On the beautiful west coast of Mahé, one finds this marvelous monstrosity! A veritable sus scrofa! Yes, this is Ros Koson (Pig rock) aptly (avec justesse) named because it certainly resembles a crouching snarling hog (accroupi rugissement cochon) in profile. One can distinctively make out the sunken eyes (yeux creux), the cartilaginous snout (groing) over the mouth (la bouche ouverte) baring the teeth in a rictus of rage. Definitely one of our most common ungulate mammals! (sabots)
Of course with so much granite around, it is not uncommon nor unusual to come across boulders or shapes of some recognizable representation.
But upon seeing this particular ‘pig’ up there, one is naturally inclined to wonder just how long has it been perched up there on that giant boulder?
We’ve been told by scientists that once upon a time, meaning so many millions of years ago when all continents were joined that Seychelles, a tiny fragment of the earths crust halfway between Africa and India became isolated during the so-called continental drift… could that rock have landed up there on that boulder during the upheaval (soulevement) and then over the centuries it was shaped into a pig by the ravages of time? Fascinating!
One thing for sure. This is one pet porky that future inhabitants of Anse Louis will certainly inherit and learn to like!.
MAISON DU PEUPLE (in Victoria)
FINIS CORONAT OPUS! (The end clowns the work!) is the praise that this building deserves. Truly deserves. Because it is the noble accomplishment of ‘The people’ and is the precious fruit of the labour of love.
This magnificent L – shaped (Liberty) two-storey edifice is the cultural, social and political venue for all Seychellois citizens – ‘the people’. And it was a decade in the making. Early in 1978 the government decided that as the nation pursues its goal of socialist progress and prosperity, it was necessary to have a large community building where ‘the people’ could assemble for social and political occasions and which could cater for various functions. Thus the seed of that grandest of scheme was auspiciously sown, when on the 5th of June 1979 France Albert Rene who was then the President of Seychelles (1977 – 2004) placed the foundation stone. A committee was established to organize various fund-raising activities to finance the construction. – the first one being a fishing competition in April which brought in tons of fish and a substantial amount – though not equal in weight! – of cash. Interestingly enough a State House banquet on 25th November 1978 had lured 250 lucky guest to relish the culinary skills of no other than the newly established “Chef” Executive himself, Mr. France Albert Rene! – who charmed his guest with the spicy delights of creole cuisine, with each guest donating R250/- to the then embryonic Maison du Peuple fund.
This major national project was carried out in three stages and all the work was done by volunteers under the guidance of technical expertise. The design was created by John Dunlop Steward and the technical diagrams were executed by ASCON – the Association of consulting engineers. Generous pecuniary donations came from U.S.S.R, North Korea and Algeria whose president then, Chadli Benjedid performed the official opening of the first phase on 5th April 1981 during his visit to Seychelles.
Workers of all trade united in an unprecedented concerted effort: masons, carpenters, electricians, painters, truck drivers e.t.c.
They worked with leisurely eagerness spurred by the spirit of solidarity and commitment. And their building rose and spread like a gigantic flower created and nurtured with love.
Finally, on the 5th June 1993, the building was officially opened by President France Albert Rene (1935 – )
And it was an eventful year. It was on Friday 18th June 1993 that the new constitution of Seychelles was approved in a referendum.
It was in that same year also that Seychelles hosted the Indian Ocean Games from 21 to 29 august. Since the inauguration of the Maison du Peuple, many great buildings and edifices have been created and many more are yet to be, but the Maison du Peuple will always symbolize the national pride and the patriotic glory of the Seychellois people.
THE BAIE ST. ANNE CHURCH (at Baie St. Anne, Praslin)
When Mgr Olivier Maradan (1899-1975) became the Bishop of the diocese of Victoria in 1937 he undertook the re-construction of all the churches and chapels that were in a state of utter dilapidation. The first one that he built was this one on the South-east coast of Praslin. The parish of Baie-Saint Anne was established in 1878 and the first resident priest was father Ange Favre (2848 – 1926) who arrived in Seychelles in 1875.
So it was during the most overwhelming tragedy in the history of modern civilization while the most gruesome atrocities and brutalities were being committed by nations against nations of the World that a group of able-bodied men on Praslin embarked on the daunting task of the construction of their church on a piece of land bequeathed to the catholic church by a widow, Eugène Savoy. Work began in March 1941 but because of the scarcity of materials and tools occasioned by the hardship of war, progress was slow and intermittent. But perseverance was relentless. On 15th February 1942, the bishop blessed the first stone.. Father Claude, the parish priest supervised the construction. The design was created by father Conradin a capuchin missionary who lived in Tanzania.
An inhabitant of Grand-Anse Praslin, Harry Berlouis designed and created the majestic and sublime altarpiece.
On the 11th April 1945 the Baie-St. Anne Church was blessed by Mgr Olivier Maradin in the presence of a dozen missionaries who on the 9th had traveled on the Alouette from Mahé to attend the ceremony. Yes, boats coming into the bay seem to be sailing right into the embrace of this divine church…
MIRAY DEMON (at Anse Déjenuer)
Miray demon? (the devils wall?) Why on earth would he build a wall here on earth in Paradise?!
Yes, this is certainly a mind-boggling sight. One gets the impression that these different sizes and shapes of granite boulders have been gingerly arranged to rest on top of one another to make a crude wall.
Well, some inhabitant of Anse Déjeuner must have appreciated the extraordinary strength of the devil and gave this bizarre heap of boulders its appropriate appellation!
In fact, once upon a time, a long long time ago, this was one single huge boulder. The ravages of time which spanned thousands of years, created fissures and clefts in it and gradually it was divided into separate pieces of rock which have more less remained in place like interlocking pieces of a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. That’s the mystery of the devil’s wall… For sure, those boulders will never be taken to the crushing plant located a mile away to be turned into aggregate!
NAGEON’S HOUSE (at Pointe Larue)
This house belonged to the Nageon de L’Estang family. In the early 20th century the family owned large properties at Pointe Larue where they cultivated coconuts and cinnamon. Etienne Alphonse Clement Nageon de L’Estang who is said to have introduced a variety of coconuts from Ceylan (now Sri-Lanka) to Seychelles in 1851 was born in Seychelles in 1821, established the first cinnamon distillery on Mahé. He was the descendant of one of the first French settlers who in 1790 during the French Revolution, was among the inhabitants who set up a Colonial Assembly in order to institute political changes in the islands, especially in relevance to land ownership.
Like all families of their time, the Nageon de L’Estang clan consisted of many offsprings which consequently justified the size of their home.
This house which was called “ La Farandole” used to have fifteen rooms. In the early 1980’s, after it had been renovated and modified it became a social centre and the SPPF District Administration office for Pointe Larue.
KENWYN HOUSE (in Victoria)A gem of a house! Yet another architectural icon that shows off the sheer beauty and rustic elegance of the colonial creole dwelling.It was originally constructed in the 1850’s and was the residential home of Dr. Henry Brooks (1831 – 1920) who was then the chief medical officer of the colony. The doctor made a hero of himself during the great avalanche (lavalasse) of October 1862 when he rescued a 42 year old Italian priest, Father Jeremie who had been buried under mud and debris. In 1883 he alerted the authorities on the dangers of an imminent small pox epidemic in the colony after he had diagnosed a passenger from East Africa with the symptoms of the contagious disease.In 1880 The Eastern Telegraphic Company bought the house from Dr Brooks. The engineers resided here while the company was laying cable links between Seychelles and Zanzibar. Incidentally the place got the name ‘Kenywn’ which is a village in cornwall, the Southern Western country of England, because apparently that was the place where the underwater telegraph cables came from!In the early 1900’s Cable & Wireless arrived in Seychelles and for much of the 20th century the house was the residence of a succession of its general managers. But the end of the 1990’s the house had fallen into a state of utter decrepitude, given that in the tropics, whatever damage that the climate and weather conditions cause to timber and wood is aggravated by those pernicious termites!In 2004 a South African company based in Seychelles discovered the house and blessed with a sense of intuitive perception realized that this was a diamond that could be made to shine!The company undertook the task of restoring ‘Kenwyn House’, meticulously retaining its original vernacular design and structure. Making indulgent use of local timber namely bwa nwar and bwa natte, the entire building was subjected to extensive renovation save for the ceiling beams, the rafters and struts, main entrance doors and floorboards which have not been replaced. They are of casuarinas wood and thus have withstood the ravages of time and termites.Eventually the house ended up being a replica of its former self. Flawless. The company Diamond SA has turned the place into a veritable artisanal emporium of duty-free items.On the first floor are dazzling selections of diamonds and Tanzanite jewelleries. Upstairs there is an overwhelming variety of pewter cutlery, leather wallets and deluxe cosmetics. In the basement gallery are beautiful sculptures and paintings by Seychellois artists.But, the most bewildering beauty is of course, the house itself.
ANSE L’UNION GRANITE BOULDER (at Anse L’Union, LaDigue)Granite. Our glorious granite. Forty islands in the Seychelles archipelago are granitic. The fascination of the Seychelles lies not only in its resplendent greenery or in its pristine beaches of scorching sunshine. The granite is awesome. Majestic. One admires and gasps(le soufflé coupé). Yes, it’s PLUTONIC! But can one go dithyrambic over the granites of Seychelles without venturing into the recondite (compliqué) science of geology stratigraphy or Petrogeny?!The granites of Seychelles date back to millions of years ago to the Mesozoic era… to the time of Gondwanaland, the time of the first amphibians, the first winged insects, the first dinosaurs. Granite is an igneous rock that formed by solidification from a molten state (igneous comes from the Latin word ignis: to inflame). It is made up mainly of crystals of quartz, feldspar and mica. And it was formed deep in the earth. And while the magma, that is, the molten matter, was forming fragments of materials called xenoliths were trapped in the magma before it crystalised – yes, like dust (poussière) of glitter (scintillante) in a bath of hot treacle (cuve de mélasse chaude, sirop)!Since granite was formed deep (profondement en bas la terre) beneath the earth’s crust (croute) it is because the rocks lying on top of it have been worn away or because it has been pushed upwards by movements of the rocks underneath long ago that boulders like this one have become exposed.Yes, long ago. And now when one beholds this grandest scenery of granite covering over one acre (0,5 hectare) of land, here on the west coast of La Digue, it is almost stupefying to realize that we are the only oceanic granite islands in the world.
THE SUPREME COURT BUILDING (in Victoria)The guardian of the constitution. The protector of our corpus juris. This building dates back to the turn of the 19th century when it housed the offices of the New Oriental Bank, which had showed up in the country in anticipation of Seychelles becoming a separate crown colony and thus hoping for the best of prospective business dealings with the colonial government. But the bank closed its door or rather its ledgers after less than five years in existence, where upon the legislative offices of administrator’s Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott’s administration occupied the premises on the First Floor. It is said that it was here on the first floor of this building that Sweet-Escott took his oath of office as the first governor of the Colony of the Seychelles on 9th November 1903. Interestingly enough, this old one-storey building which we have come to associate solely with convictions, litigations and acquittals was at one time the location for the Eastern telegram company which in 1893 layed the cable that connected Seychelles with Zanzibar and Mauritius. It was 15 words per minute marvel!Early in 1976 as Seychelles prepared for its Independence, the building underwent extensive renovations and lay-out modifications as if the zeal for republican sovereignty created the imperative need to change the place which had for so many decades harbored the Lex Scripta of colonial legislation and make it more propitious, it seemed, to a accommodate our new constitution. A magistrate’s court was established on the ground floor with the Supreme Court on the first floor. All the court rooms, magistrates and judges’s chambers were equipped with air-conditioning.Both former Presidents of the Seychelles, James Mancham (1976-1977) and France Albert Rene (1977-2004) have worked in this building as lawyers. With its wooden shutters, wrought-iron spiral staircase, shingles roof and top verandah, the Supreme Court building is distinctly creole. And it wouldn’t be out of place somewhere in the middle of Hispaniola or among the old edificios of Havana.But it has stood here in the middle of Victoria for the last hundred years and has become one of the most popular colonial features of our town… for obvious reasons of course!
LA BASTILLE (at Union Vale)bastille? This is certainly not a penitentiary! And it never had any pretensions of being a modified version, in miniature, of that infamous prison fortress. In fact this massive grim building used to be the cherished home of the Pillieron family.It nowadays it’s huge size doesn’t impress the beholder as being THAT impressive, on account of all those enormous modern multi-storied edifices that the construction zeal of the late 20th century has produced, back in the 1930’s this particular building was seen as a mighty house, a leviathan structure, a construction wonder…Yes, people gasped.Ange Louis Auguste Pillieron (1890 – 1937) was a man of considerable wealth and most probably of patrician lineage as well. He was born at Anse Etoile on 2nd November 1890 and as a young lad he must have been among the crowds who gathered in Victoria on 1st April 1903 to witness the inauguration of the Clocktower.He had a large property at Pointe Conan where he grew cinnamon, coffee and a variety of fruit trees. Early in the 1930’s he married Marge Jumeau, and the couple eventually had two daughters Marie-Ange and Denise.Ange inherited his father’s property here at Union Vale where he decided to build his family residence. Obviously he had no qualms about living in a house that would reflect his financial munificence and social status. Indeed, it is anybody’s guess how much a residence like this would have cost back in the 1930’s.To create his ‘dream house’ Ange Pillieron engaged the services of a reputable Swiss architect Alfred Leitt who evidently had a knack for knowing the size and shape of his clients’ ego!… and for satisfying their whims. He designed the massive house with a single story, and as requested, excluded a verandah – which constitutes almost a “construction solecism” in the torrid tropics. For Ange Pillieron, he opted for large bay windows with elliptical arches and thick intrados, to be situated at four projecting corners of the house so that they created recesses within and provided more space. The foundation of the monumental house is an extensive cellar and basement which was used for storage.Sadly, Ange Pillieron did not live long enough to enjoy his sumptuous residence. He died tragically on 5th May 1937. His widow and two daughters remained in residence for a few years and in 1948 the house was sold to the government.The large rooms were transformed into offices to accommodate various government departments; the survey Division of the Public works department during the 1960’s, the Ministry of Education in 1975. In 1981 the National Archives occupied the entire building until 1993 when it moved to new locations in the new National Library building in Victoria.Nowadays the National Heritage Institute is based in the building.At the entrance, where the fountain onced sprinkled and sparkled, a triumvirate of traditional Seychellois musicians has been exquisitely immortalized in metalwork by sculptor Tom Bowers:Olive Niole 1903-1994, Jacob Marie 1904-1994 and Marius Camille 1898-1981.
“LA DOMUS” (in Victoria)This lofty building of majestic splendour that stands in resplendent conspicuity on the terrace overlooking the Olivier Maradan Street in Victoria is the ‘domicilium’ – the residence of the catholic priests.Measuring 40 metres by 12 metres,it was built between 1930 – 1934, at the time when the evangelical zeal of the capuchin priests from the Swiss province was in the zenith.In fact, this manifestly ostentatious edifice is the magnum opus of a capuchin missionary, Brother Gélase Ruffleux who was born in 1896 at crésuz in the province of Fribourg a religious and cultural centre in Western Switzerland.Brother Gélase arrived in Seychelles on Saturday 3rd November 1928, at thirty-two years old.To the inhabitants, he must have appeared like yet another white-robed hated missionary venturing out into the wild, armed with bible and rosary.The population of 29,000 was governed by Sir de Symons Montagu GeorgeHoney (1872-1945) and the crosier of the Catholic Church was held by the first Swiss Bishop of theSeychelles Mgr Louis Justin Gumy (1869-1941). At that time most parishes had their resident priests but there was no communal abode for the missionaries.Brother Gélase had hardly become accustomed to the sweltering heat and humidity of our side of the Equator when he decided that the terrain next to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception would be ideal for his grand scheme…Because Brother Gélase wanted to build a home for the pulpit that would flaunt its ecclesiastical dignity. Labour was plentiful and cheap during the 1930’s when most men and women eked out a frugal existence on coconut and cinnamon plantations – and indeed their conviction that their economic welfare and fate depended mainly on their piety was itself ‘divine’ assurance that the construction of a palatial home for foreign missionaries would get their devout approval rather than offend their sensibilities…But Brother Gélase had to reckon with many constraints among which were the lacks of PORTLAND CEMENT! Joseph Aspid’s 1824 invention was practically unavailable on the island.So he resorted to a method first used by the Romans. In order to make mortar and concrete he sends men out to collect limestone coral from the reefs around Mahé. When this was burned and melted, the material formed into small lumps called clinkers. These were ground to a fine powder which when mixed with water set very hard within a few hours.Yes the inhabitants must have awed at the structure towering heavens-high!Brother Gélase created the building according to a plan by father Antoine Marie (1882-1952)) who had arrived in Seychelles the same year as he but only three months before.But Brother Gélase’s building exuberance would not allow him to restrict himself to his colleague’s technical drawings.Before deciding to become a missionary, he had spent a few years as a Swiss guard at the Vatican, at the time of Pope Benedict XX (1854-1922) where he had been fascinated by themagnificent architecture, those pinnacles of elaborated carvings, sculptured figurines and Corinthian columns with acanthus motifs.As the building rose and widened he added a storey and then another, meticulously making the balusters of each balcony in a different mood, perhaps just to add vitality to the sublime symmetry of the almost Palladian design. An oratory was placed at the top surmounted with a salient masonry cross. He even created an Aquaduct that supply water to the building from an artesian well situated on the hill slope above.Hallelujah! By the end of 1934, Brother Gélase and his team of workers were proud of their outstanding accomplishment. It was the year that another governor Gordon James Lethem (1886-1962) arrived in the colony and the Diocese of Victoria received its new Bishop Mgr Aloys Joye (1880-1962) who certainly must have been impressed with the ‘domus’ – a grand and stately building whose elegant proportion was in harmony with the greatness of the catholic mission in Seychelles and which was then as white as a wafer.Brother Gélase passed away on the 2nd May 1949, at 53 years old. His brother father, Simon (1900-1986) who was a priest and had arrived in Seychelles since 1927 remained until 1971, doing pastoral and evangelical work in almost every parish.It was ninety-nine years after the arrival of the catholic mission in Seychelles in 1851 that the islands received its first Seychellois priest. Father Chang-Tave (1918-1981) was ordained in Rome on 1st January 1950. In all, 16 Seychellois men have joined the priesthood among whom one, Felix Paul (1935-2001) became the first Seychellois bishop on 25th July 1975, and four abandoned the chasuble and ciborium after a few years at the pulpit.The Domus is a noble symbol and souvenir of those early years of the twentieth century, when young capuchin missionaries in their twenties ventured out into the tropics to spread the gospel.
EUSTACHE SARDÉS HOUSE (at Anse Reunion, on La Digue)
An endearing creole dwelling. Originally built over a hundred years ago, it has been the home of four generations of the Sardés family. It was constructed by Edouard Constance (1881-1951) a carpenter/mason of La Digue whose faculty for construction has produced splendid altars for various chapels and churches on Praslin and Mahé.Traditionally, every creole house had its own distinctive character albeit common features like dormer windows and verandah with raffia blinds were compulsory concessions to our islands’ hot climate, in order to allow maximum ventilation inside.The ravages of time and termites have obviously necessitated periodic renovations on this particular house which once upon a time must have stood on its four masonry plinths.Apparently the empty space underneath has been judiciously converted into a habitable room, turning the house into a one-storey abode.In an era of modern residential development, it’s really a joy to have been able to rescue this little jewel from the ‘momentum of progress’ and keep it as a tantalizing snippet of what Creole dwellings used to be like.
CASCADE CATHOLIC CHURCH (at Cascade)Yes, it is so. All churches are beautiful, wherever they are: The symmetrical transepts, the altar, the vestry, the stained glass windows, and the belfry. They all seem to possess that particular character that gives subtle distinction to ecclesiastical aesthetics.In Seychelles we have sixteen of these picturesque apostolic landmarks that punctuate the history of the catholic mission in our islands.And the story of St. Andrew’s church at Cascade begins in the penultimate decade of the 19th century… in 1882.When father Edmond Dardel (1825-1891), having just arrived the year before, decides to build a chapel for the 350 inhabitants of Cascade. Father Théophile Pollar (1826-1895) gave pastoral care and spiritual guidance to his small flock until his death. For the next decade, the inhabitants were without a parish priest. They were grateful for the occasional visit of an itinerant priest from town or from Anse Aux Pins.In 1898 a presbytery was built and Cascade got its first residential priest. He was Father Bernadin Clark (1856-1915) from an English and Protestant family. He had converted to Catholicism in 1870 and was ordained in 1874. He would in 1910 become the bishop of the Diocese of Victoria until his death in 1915.In 1902 Father Clark left to become apostolic vicar of Aden which was then a British colony. Once again the parishioners found themselves without a shepherd… until 1905, with the arrival of father Adrien Inhof (1868-1909) a twenty-seven year old priest whose attributes included a steadfastness of purpose and an indefatigable spirit. He visited the neighborhoods frequently, bringing practical advice, solace and alms to poor families, comforting those in grief, and of course all the while sowing the seeds of the gospel everywhere he went. Soon he realized that the chapel was too small. He shared his concern with Mgr Hudrisier (1892-1910) who alas gave him his whole hearted benediction but not a single cent! – because the church had none to spare. The missionaries earned their ‘daily bread’ by cultivating nutmeg, cloves and vanilla. This brought them just enough revenue.Father Adrien did not despair. Back in Switzerland he had become acquainted with more than just a few philanthropic individuals. So in all humility he appealed for help.On 5th May 1908 Mgr Hudrisier blessed the first stone. Unfortunately, infirmities of health prevented father Adrien from participating in the construction of his church. He returned to Switzerland where he died on 24th July 1909. Father Jérémie Luisier (1876-1956) arrived at Cascade in July 1910 and took charge and gradually work progressed. Three years later on 15th March 1913 the beautiful church of St Andrew stood in all its splendour and glory, and all the parishioners rejoiced.In 1996 the church underwent extensive renovations with the entire roof being replaced and the whole building replastered. It was consecrated on the 26th November 1997 by Mgr. Xavier Baronnet.Every year, on November 30th the inhabitants of Cascade celebrated the feast of their Patron Saint, one of the 12 apostles who is believed to have been the first Christian missionary.
DOMAINE VAL DE PRÈS (at Au Cap)This is the last authentic traditional Creole homestead in Seychelles. It stands on what was once known as the St. Roch Estate. Comprising of many acres of land where coconuts and cinnamon were grown.This gigantic house of timber was originally built in the 1870’s when property owners built homes that reflected their status and prosperity.Although it has been extensively renovated and refurbished in the course of which modifications were necessary, the house has retained all the traditional aspects of the colonial plantation house: the pitched roof, with finials and prickets, the dormer windows and garrets, the wide verandah that encompasses the entire quadrilateral structure of the building, and of course the obligatory masonry plinths on which it rests.In 1926, Dr John Thomas Bradley (1872-1942) who was then chief medical officer of health in Seychelles gave the house to his daughter Dolly who in 1920 had married Douglas Bailey (1899-1974) a wealthy Anglican and fervent supporter of the Anglican Church in Seychelles. He was employed by the Eastern Telegraph Company. He was also a nominated member of the Legislative Council for 28 years. In the 1950’s Douglas Bailey bought the other plantation house, now known as the Creole Institute at Au Cap. The couple made generous donations towards the construction of many Anglican churches in Seychelles. In 1969, the Government bought the house and the estate for Scr.1,133,348.33cts.Sadly, there is but only a pathetic sample of the antiques that onced furnished the sitting room; a couple of chairs of artisanal wickerwork, a console table with cambriole legs and thank goodness, the old bureau, the escritoire where ‘old Bailey’ must have spent many epistolary hours, chirographically, of course!A covered walk at the back of the house leads to the traditional creole kitchen where, besides the wood stove, many items evoked the culinary memories of yesteryear. There is the kokosye (the half of coco de mer nut in which rice was washed before being put in the cooking pot), the lavann ( a flat basket of woven pandanus in which rice was winnowed) the kapatia ( a basket of woven coconut fronds in which fruits and vegetables were kept) and of course the indispensable marmit (cooking pot made of cast iron). Anything and everything was cooked in the marmit.Nearby stands a massive towering breadfruit tree whose fruits must have been part of the plantation workers’ meal then.There is a replica of the servant’s dwelling house. Built of timber on squat stone pillars, it is a modest structure in which the servant slept. The wooden walls are entirely covered with pages of newspapers and magazines. The dwelling has three compartments: The small living room with the photograph of the Royal family of Windsor, the bedroom and the kitchen. The Domain Val de Près was inaugurated on 24th October 1988. This heritage project was financed by the U.S government.To complete the traditional ensemble, a craft village was constructed, comprising of twelve workshops where local artists and artisans create batiks, handicrafts painting and macramé work for tourists to buy when they come to visit.There is also a creole restaurant Vye Marmit that offers the spicy delights of our creole cuisine. Standing here in the yard under the breadfruit tree, one can imagine those workers husking coconuts… women laying out cinnamon barks in the sun to dry… the aroma of patchouli… the scent of vanilla… yes, the savour of salted fish curry… pumpkin chutney with chilli… and grilled mackerels with boiled breadfruit… Creole, indeed.
ROS SODYER (at Takamaka)On the South-west side of Mahé, at Takamaka there is this large cavity at the edge of the granite slope which links the craggy coastline of Takamaka to the resplendent Intendance beach.It is ‘littoraly’ a massive hole of sea water which is kept brimful by the waves that regular crash against the coast, spilling into the hole as they withdraw back into the ocean.At a depth of over 27ft and with a circumference of 54.ft (16.3m) Ros Sodyer is quite a mind boggling geological feature in itself.But attention! achtung! Atencione! Onyoma! Waarskuwings! This ring of seawater is for your eyes only…
ROS LESKALYE(ROCK STEPS) (at Port Launay)The resplendence of Port Launay in North Western Mahé is breathtaking (stupéfiant). Here along the boulder-strewn coast the waves of the Indian Ocean come to nudge (pousser) themselves against the rocks after having spent their rage further away. But amidst this sublime scenery there is a particular feature that certainly can be baffling (déconcertant) to the lonely peasant (paysan)who happens to venture along these parts on an afternoon when looking for limpets (bernik).These steps are mind-boggling. Almost like a gateway (la porte ouverte) to the backwoods (fôret) used by undersea aliens! Fascinating! Well, geology IS fascinating.This rather unusual feature (particularity) is known as a dyke (digue, filon, déf). It is typically the result of igneous (igné, produit par l’action de la chaleur) intrusion (imposition): a long mass of igneous rock that cuts across the structure of adjacent rock. This happens when magma or molten rock (metal en fusion) move upwards by injecting (propulsé) into cracks (fissures) at higher levels in the earth’s crust, forcing the sides apart. Magma solidifies in the crack to form a dyke, and in the case here at Port Launay, the dyke do look like a row (rangé)of steps.(des marches, un escalier)
- PAUL’S ANGLICAN CATHEDRAL (in Victoria)
This is evidently a beautiful building here in the Capital of Victoria, typifying the sublime refinements and aesthetics of the modern ecclesiastical edifice. It was built between 2000 and 2004 in the original place of its predecessor.Indeed as much as the building is attractive, the site on which it stands is of great historical interest. In June 1830, three years after the death of Quéau de Quincy (1748-1827) and long before the first catholic missionaries arrived in Seychelles, an Anglican missionary and scholar from India, Rev. William Morton came to visit and to consider the possibility of building a church here. After he left having baptized a few hundred inhabitants, he informed the Church of England that Seychelles is need of a permanent chaplain. He was not surprised when the post was offered to him. In October 1832 he returned, full of evangelical optimism and intent on establishing a church or at least build a chapel. But he was disappointed and disillusioned the hostile attitude of most people and the lack of support from the colonial authorities, so in October 1833 he left and returned to India.It was a decade later in 1843 that a permanent civil chaplain was appointed in Seychelles. He was rev. George Ferdinand Delafontaine (1811-1879). It was during his ministry (1843-1853) that the Anglican Church in Seychelles began to spread and grow, despite the fact that the civil commissioner Charles Augustus Etienne Mylius challenged and opposed every attempt at enlightening the population on the Anglican doctrine. And in 1855 with the arrival of another civil chaplain AugusteFallet, plans for a church in Victoria materialized. An architect named Scott who had designed the Cathedral of St. John’s in newfound land was commissioned. Ferdinand Savy was the contractor and the surveyor was Stanislas Butler. On the 15th May 1859, the small church of St. Paul’s was consecrated by the first Anglican Bishop of Mauritius William Vincent Ryan (1816-1888).During the great avalanche (lavalasse) of 12th October 1862 which devastated the town of Victoria, the inhabitants sought refuge in the church and sacks of rice that had been salvaged from raging floods were stored in the bell tower. The convent was completely destroyed and eleven orphan girls and two nuns perished. Up on the hills above Victoria, several houses were dislodged along with trees and granite boulders. Six bodies were swept in the churchyard, a mother and her three children, a father and his daughter. They were buried there. For many weeks after that great calamity, the church was a sanctuary for many inhabitants while the town was being cleared of mud and debris and new dwellings were being constructed for the homeless families.During the last decades of the 19th century, the little church of coral limestone was periodically renovated and extended to accommodate the growing Anglican population. A substantial increase that was accounted for by many liberated slaves who were lured into the Anglican Communion. It was in that church also that Kind Prempeh of Ashanti was baptized on 29th May 1904, four years after he arrived in Seychelles to spend an exile of twenty-four years. He had expressed the desire to belong the same faith as King George V (1865 – 1936).In April 1961 the church of St. Paul’s was elevated to the status of cathedral by Bishop Alan Francis Rogers of Mauritius who also ordained the first Anglican priest of Seychelles father French Chang-Him (1938-……) on 9th June 1963 at St. Paul’s cathedral.The Anglican diocese of Victoria was established on 3rd April 1973 with the enthronement of George Briggs as the first Bishop of Seychelles until 29th July 1979 when father Chang-Him was consecrated Bishop. On the 9th September 1984, father Chang-Him was unanimously elected as Archbishop of the province of the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile in 1978, extending and renovating work had been carried out on the church in a bid to give it a new lease on life for the Seychellois bishopric.By the late 1990’s the entire church including its coral limestone bell tower had finally succumbed to the ravages of time. So it was decided that the entire building should be demolished and a new cathedral rebuilt.On the 25th of April 2004 the modern successor of that little church built in the late 1850’s was inaugurated and re-consecrated by Archbishop Chang-Him who was then terminating his twenty-three year episcopate.On the afternoon of 5th April 2005, Rev Santosh Marray of Guyana was consecrated the fourth bishop of the Anglican church of Seychelles.Yes, it is a building of great dignity and grace. And it was constructed by Hindus of the VJ construction company. Remarkable…
STATE HOUSE CEMETERY (at State House grounds in Victoria)
This little cemetery situated in the grounds of the State House contains the tombs and graves of many of our notable historical figures who in their own ways have written many chapters in the turbulent history of our island. It was opened in 1809. Yes, here they rest in a place which during the l’Etablissement du roi was known as Montagne du Pavillon – the site where the French flag was raised, no doubt.Here is the lime stone sepulcher of the Chevalier Jean BaptisteQuéau de Quincy (1748-1827) commandant and civil agent of Seychelles from 1793 to 1811 when Britain took possession of the islands, after which he was appointed juge de paix. A legendary figure in the history of Seychelles he is remembered for his steadfastness of purpose and sagacity. The building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is named after him, in recognition of his diplomatic flair, of course! He was 79 years when he died on 10th July 1827. His second wife Marie Joseph Dubail whom he married in October 1794 in Seychelles rests besides him. She died in 1809 aged 38 years old. His 6 year old grandchild, Isidore Henriette Roselmie Lefebvre de Macy is also buried in the sepulcher. She died in 1828.There is the tomb of chief civil commissioner William Hales Franklyn who passed away on 3rd April 1874 at 58 years old. He was a retired captain who joined the colonial service in Hong Kong before his appointment in Seychelles. Chief civil commissioner captain Francis Theophilus Blunt who succeeded Arthur Elibank Havelock (1844 – 1908) in October 1880 is also buried here. He had hardly begun to appreciate the duties of his new post when he got dysentery and died in February 1881.The last person to be buried here was governor John Kingsmill RobertThorp (1912 – 1961) who drowned together with his financial secretary, Maurice Boullé at Grand Anse on 13th August 1961. They were attempting to save the lives of two boys, the governor’s own son, Terence, and Archdeacon Walker son Philip who were being carried away by the under current.Curiously, another governor Malcolm Stevenson who arrived in Seychelles in August 1927 and died in November of the same year was buried in the Mont Fleuri cemetery and not here at Montagne du Pavillon curious…