Bonaventura de Sardegna was a Capuchin missionary to Congo and coauthor of early Kikongo dictionary. Having completed classical studies in his native Sardinia, Bonaventura enrolled in the University of Salamanca. Taking the Capuchin habit in Madrid in 1629, he was ordained priest in 1637. Guardian of the convent of Valladolid, in 1643 he was nominated for the first Capuchin mission to Kongo (southern region of present-day Congo and northern Angola), arriving there in May 1645. He worked closely with Manuel Roboredo, the son of a Portuguese father and a mother of royal Kongolese blood. Ordained in the same year as Bonaventura, Roboredo had been sent by King Garcia II to conduct the Capuchins to the royal capital, Mbanza Kongo (about 150 miles southwest of Brazzaville), Bonaventura rapidly organized schools in Mbanza Kongo, training students in the arts and theology. He collaborated with Roboredo in compiling a trilingual dictionary of Kikongo, Spanish, and Latin. This was used by the students and missionaries, and a copy made by the martyr George de Geel was brought back to Rome in 1657. The Kikongo section, with translations into French and Flemish, was eventually published in 1928 by the Jesuits J. van Wing and C. Penders.
Bonaventura was entrusted by Garcia II with important diplomatic negotiations in Luanda, first with the Dutch in 1646, and then, after the Portuguese reconquest, with Salvador Correa de Sa in 1648. After Bonaventura died, Roboredo was received into the Capuchin Order. In 1665 he was killed at the battle of Mbwila, accompanying Garcia’s successor as military chaplain.
Buenaventura de Carrocera, “Los capuchinos espanôles en el Congo y el primer diccionario congolés.” Missionalia Hispanica 2 (1945): 209-230; Carlo Toso, Il Congo, cimitero dei Cappucini nell’inedito di P. Cavazzi, sec. Xvii (1992): J. van Wing and C. Penders, Le plus ancien dictionnaire bantu (1928).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.