The first catholic missionaries arrived in Burundi towards the end of the 19th century from the neighbouring Tanzania. Their settlement was marked by the setting up of the ‘Cross’ of Misugi the 18 March 1897 in Cankuzo province in the east of the country. Following two successive arsons by the population under the instigation of the chief Muzazi, the 15 August 1898 and the 18 March1899 respectively, the missionaries moved and settled on the site of Muyaga, at 24km from Misugi. However, the mission was not to be set up until July 1899, with the intervention of the colonial authority (Germans), namely the lieutenant Von Grawert. Finally, the famous gothic church of Muyaga, was built in 1917. The local materials were carried by the Christians, but also forcibly by the rest of the population. The Cross of Misugi, 4m high, has miraculously stood the test of bad weather and the wild fire for more than 85 years, and was finally transferred in the church of Muyaga, in 1982 still intact.
Another important element to visit in Muyaga, is the old drum taken over by missionaries from the royal court, to materialise the transfer of the divine power of the king acknowledged by the population, to Jesus Christ, the symbol of Christianity. It was beaten to summon the Christians to church services at the same time as the bell rang.
BURUNDIDES put the visit to Muyaga Church together into a three day tour starting from Bujumbura: after the visit to the pygmies’ village of Busekera, Kings’ springs near Bukeye, tea plantations of Teza, Birds’ lake in Kirundo and the Ruvubu Park via Muyinga, the tourist can survey that showpiece realised by the human creative genius. The tour operator will namely make you discover that the beams that hold the roofing are natural woods brought from faraway areas of Burundi and Tanzania. The visitor marvels at the absence of the use of nails or of any other metallic material for joining those big boards, what testifies the creativity of the designers of this church.
Finally, you can meditate as Christian (or follower of any other Belief), in this magnificent place that stands for an important event in the history of Burundi: it incarnates the first physical contact between the Burundian society and the alien culture, that was going to change mentalities through schools, money, diplomas, democracy, etc.