Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Andrianaivoravelona, Josefa



One of the first Malagasy ministers of the Reformed Church of Madagascar.

Andrianaivoravelona was born into a non-Christian noble family of the central part of Madagascar. After his baptism in 1857, he dropped his original name Andriantseheno and adopted Andrianaivoravelona as more in keeping with his Christian faith. Thereafter he applied all his energy to the conversion of his people, hiding in various places because of religious persecution by the queen, Ranavalona I, who was hostile to Christianity and foreign influence. While in southern Madagascar he founded the first church of Fianarantsoa. On his return to Antananarivo, the capital, he was able to work as a self-educated preacher until the persecution ended in 1861, thanks to the secret protection of the queen’s son and the prime minister. He was elected as pastor in 1866 by the congregation of Ampamarinana, thus becoming the first native minister of the church and its dependent communities. When the new queen, Ranavalona II, converted to Christianity, he also became one of the pastors of the palace church in 1869, remaining pastor of the two churches until 1897. In spite of his age and heavy pastoral and family responsibilities, Andrianaivoravelona pursued his studies brilliantly in the London Missionary Society College at Antananarivo from 1869 to 1873. He was a prolific hymn writer, an indefatigable and immensely popular preacher, and a member of the committee for the revision of the Bible from 1873 to 1887. He drew praise from fellow countrymen and foreign missionaries alike, although some of the latter were distrustful of his independent spirit. Such a formidable character attracted the suspicion of the French government, so that he was sent into exile to the island of Reunion with the last queen, Ranavalona III. There he died.

Yvette Ranjeva Rabetafika


Josefa Andrianaivoravelona’s hymns appear in Malagsy hymnbooks. Joseph Andrianaivoravelona, “Andrianaivoravelona,” in Mpanolotsaina 34, nos. 139 - 142 (1937). Ratovonarivo, Tantaran’ny Fiangonana Ambonin’Ampamarinana (History of the Ampamarinana church) (1974). See also Francois Raison-Jourde, Bible et pouvoir au Madagascar au XIXe siècle (1991). The most extended biographical note is in Ravelojaona, ed., Firaketana (Malagasy encyclopedic dictionary) (1937).

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.