This book tells the story of the Christian religious movement led by Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita in the Kingdom of Kongo from 1704 until her death, by burning at the stake, in 1706. Beatriz, a young woman, claimed to be possessed by St Anthony, argued that Jesus was a Kongolese, and criticized Italian Capuchin missionaries in her country for not supporting black saints. The movement was largely a peace movement, with a following among the common people, attempting to stop the devastating cycle of civil wars between contenders for the Kongolese throne. Thornton supplies background information on the Kingdom, the development of Catholicism in Kongo since 1491, the nature and role of local warfare in the Atlantic slave trade, and contemporary everyday life, as well as sketching the lives of some local personalities.
Introduction; 1. A land in turmoil; 2. The rival kings; 3. Priests and witches in catholic Kongo; 4. The crisis in faith and force; 5. Saint Anthony arrives; 6. The saint and the kings; 7. Saint Anthony in sin and glory; 8. Facing the fire; 9. The war for peace; Appendix; Index.