Chapter 1 Merely a Dream In 1164 forty German monks and ten sailors boarded a transport in Genoa and departed across the Mediterranean on the most unlikely voyage of its day. The bustling medieval port was surely abuzz that day because these monks were not off to some mission in the Holy Land or Iberia; they were destined for Africa…West Africa. The unlikely trip was the end result of a series of unlikely events. The leader of the monks, Charles of Africa, started all of the events one fateful night at St. Medard Abbey in 1157 with a dream. Charles saw himself in a jungle surrounded by blacks speaking a language unfamiliar to him. However they were all taking communion and worshipping at the cross. Charles, who had never seen or heard of jungles or Africans before made inquires to his fellow scholar monks in the Soissons area. None had any knowledge of what had transpired in Charles’ dream. In the summer of 1160 a terrible storm struck Soissons and the monks were holed up in the Abbey for days. One day, through the storm, three other monks came to the door requesting shelter from the storms. The three monks from the County of Diez were making their way to meet Louis VII, King of France. During their stay, Charles finally got his answer. One of the monks, whose name has now been lost to history, had transcribed some parchment from Roman days speaking about black slaves from the jungles of Africa. It was at this moment that Charles decided his dream was a divine message and it was his duty from God to go to this “Africa” and make his dream a reality. While no one is sure if the monks from Diez made it to meet Louis VII, it is known that Charles left St. Medard Abbey for Rome shortly after. Walking the roads from Soissons to Rome took Charles through Reims, Alsace, Lorraine, Diessenhoffen, the Alps, Milan, Florence, and finally Rome. Along the way Charles recruited roughly 40 monks to make his journey with him, the men who would later be known as the Congregation of Africa. When the Congregation reached Old St. Peters Basilica, their popularity and mission was widespread. Motivated solely by faith and knowing full well they would likely never see Europe again; Alexander III was practically forced to authorize their mission and finance their voyage. The newly elected Pope had little say in response to the massive popularity of the faith and common folk driven congregation. It is also true that Alexander III was a great advocate of missionary work and spiritual expansion of the church. While the Congregation was away Pope Alexander would prove to be a great patron of the church in the far northeast around the Baltic. Most of 1160 was spent preparing and organizing, including purchasing some pricey charts and maps from Muslim Berbers active in the cross-Saharan trade. A trip of such proportions had never been done before. While ships ventured out beyond the Pillars of Hercules, they almost exclusively went north towards the British Isles or the Baltic, and even then such ventures were only a few hundred years old. Those that went south only made it as far as Chellah the strategic starting point for the Almohad’s attacks against Spain. Anything further south was either desert or worthless fishing villages. In addition to the practical, there was the spiritual side of the trip. On the slim chance Charles and the African Congregation did make it to Africa, what then? No one in Christendom had experience in African languages and customs. There was no structure for the church in Africa. While the questions of language, travel, customs, and such were left either unanswered or to the experts, Pope Alexander did ordain Charles as a Bishop of the church. While no “Diocese of Africa” was established, Charles’ titular status was enough for his duties (if he ever got the chance to fulfill them) in the newly created Prefecture Apostolic of Africa. By late 1163 though, everything was ready for the African congregation’s fateful voyage.