Located in the heart of Congo’s capital Brazzaville is a memorial that houses the remains of Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, the French explorer of Italian origin, who founded Brazzaville in October 1880. The marble and glass Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza Memorial situated at a major intersection in downtown Brazzaville was built as a memorial to de Brazza. The building comes with a museum, sculpture garden and a giant statue of the explorer.
In 2005, it was inaugurated by President Denis Sassou Nguesso and it has since been a major tourist attraction, attracting over seven million visitors in the past decade. But the numbers could have been more.
The tourist site has indeed helped in preserving the modern history of the Republic of the Congo. However, many people in the country have refused to enter the mausoleum, reports say. With the site being a memorial to colonialism and its legacy, locals were initially against the fact that the mausoleum adores a colonialist, a man who signed a deal with the region’s then Bantu or Teke king, Makoko, making it possible for the French to take control of the nation in the 1880s.
History writes that de Brazza took possession of the land Ncouna, which later became Brazzaville, after having signed a treaty with Makoko on September 10, 1880.
Some locals in Brazzaville have also described the mausoleum as a center of kindoki, or “black magic,” according to a report by Atlas Obscura. The locals say the dome-shaped building is “evil” while highlighting de Brazza’s Freemason background. Freemasonry, which is the world’s largest fraternal organization, is seen by some as a cult of devil worshippers. And with this belief, some locals in the Republic of Congo believe that Freemasons in the country hold their meetings at the de Brazza Memorial at night. Workers at the mausoleum have always rubbished those claims.
Atlas Obscura recently wrote that: “Indeed, in a country where politics is often intertwined with traditional beliefs about sorcery, the building is believed to be a kind of Skull and Bones of Equatorial Africa, a place where a shadowy African elite meets to plot the future of the continent. Anyone who enters risks coming under the spell of powerful leaders—and may not emerge alive. Hence the empty building at the heart of the city.”
Still, some tourists say the mausoleum is worth visiting at it traces the history of the Congo. Apart from photos of de Brazza and his family at the site showing the development of Brazzaville, one can also learn the stories of influential Teke King Makoko and the independence of the Congo. There are also artifacts like masks, sculptures, and Teke tribe currencies.
In the basement are the remains of de Brazza, his wife and children. Their remains were brought to the mausoleum in October 2006 by Nguesso from Algiers, where the explorer had been buried in 1905.