Three separate states arose in the 6 th century AD in the territory of today’s northern Sudan. In Lower Nubia, it was the kingdom of Nobatia with its capital in Faras, bordering with Makuria (modern Dongola Reach) in the south, while on the Blue Nile grew the kingdom of Alwa with the city of Soba as its centre. Political prudence made the rulers of the Nubian kingdoms, who closely followed the situation in Byzantine Egypt and Christianized Ethiopia, adopt the ruling religion of the Empire – Christianity.
Under the sign of the Cross
About 543 AD the ruler of Nobatia received baptism in the Monophisyte confession (one of the two factions of the contemporary Church) from the priest Julian. This fact coincided with closure of the last Egyptian temple on Philae island by the emperor Justinian, and so both dates mark the symbolic end of antiquity on the Nile. The Christianization of Nubia was continued by Longinus, who in 580 converted the inhabitants of the kingdom of Alwa. Several years earlier the religion had been adopted by Makuria, then in open military conflict with its neighbours. At the beginning of the 8 th century, the kingdom of Makuria managed to assimilate Nobatia and thus created a huge state which was to go through a period of political and cultural prosperity over the next centuries.
Kings and saints from Locust Island
One of the most famous discoveries over the recent years has been brought by the explorations carried out by Polish archaeologists at Banganarti (Locus Island in the local dialect). The central point of the immense complex of buildings encircled by walls and turrets was a large church on the plane of the cross, originally on the plane of the cross, originally covered with a dome. On the eastern side the church was adjoined by a row of chapels whose walls were covered with murals of exceptional quality, often in layers put one upon the other over centuries. The repeat the analogous compositional scheme: one of the Archangels blesses in a symbolic gesture a Nubian ruler in ceremonial dress, accompanied by the twelve apostoles.
In the Middle Ages the church might have functioned as a royal mausoleum functioned as a royal mausoleum for the members of the dynasty ruling in nearby Old Dongola. At its prime Banganarti must have been one of the most important religious centers in Nubia, regularly visited by crowds of pilgrims who left hundreds of inscriptions and graffiti on the building’s walls.
The Arabs, who conquered Egypt in the 7 th century, made two unsuccessful attempts to invade Nubia. The peace treaty (in Arabic sources: baqt) that was concluded in 652 guaranteed Nubian independence and freedom in exchange for an annual tribute of slaves and a promise to erect a mosque at Dongola. Over the next centuries Makuria had regular diplomatic relations with the Arab world. The situation changed only in the 12 th century. This was a time of unrest in Nubia, witnesses by the construction of numerous forts. The northern kingdom of Makuria practically collapsed in 1323 and was taken over by a new Arab dynasty of the Beni Kanz tribe. In the south, Alwa survived for nearly two hundred years, constantly attacked by Arab Bedouin and finally conquered by a Muslim ruler of the Funj people. The green banner of Islam appeared over the Sudan…