Royal Palaces of Abomey (1985)
Benin
(formerly The Republic of Dahomey)

Back to index

From 1625 to 1900, 12 kings succeeded one another at the head of the powerful Kingdom of Abomey. With the exception of King Akaba, who had his own separate enclosure, they all had their palaces built within the same cob-wall area, in keeping with previous palaces as regards the use of space and materials. The royal palaces of Abomey are a unique reminder of this vanished kingdom. 

Dahomey 1960. The royal Court of Abomey, now known as the Museum of Abomey.

People's Republic of Benin 1977. Museum of Abomey.

Dahomey 1965. Abomey Tapestry.

In 1985, the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, for the following reasons:

The site was inscribed simultaneously on the World Heritage List and on the List of the World Heritage in Danger in 1985, after a tornado struck Abomey on 15 March 1984. According to a report at the time, the royal enclosure and museums (particularly the Guezo Portico, the Assins Room, King Glèlè's Tomb and Jewel Room) had suffered extensive damage. Since 1984, several conservation programs have done effective work at the site.

In 1994, problems surrounding the upkeep of the site led the World Heritage Committee to mobilise the help of various countries and institutions. One project, initiated in that year by PREMA (Prevention in the Museums of Africa) in co-operation with the Benin authorities, assembled a much needed body of archives on the architecture of this site and related ones in Benin. A three-year world-wide search, financed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the World Heritage Centre, yielded some 2,500 pages of documents dating from 1731 to the present. The material assembled was copied and bound, and the resulting tomes have been entrusted to libraries in Benin, France, Italy and the United States of America.

After visiting Abomey in 1993, a mission from the Getty Conservation launched a campaign for the restoration of the bas-reliefs that once decorated the palaces. During this campaign, which lasted four years, fifty of the fifty-six bas-reliefs originally decorating the walls of Glèlè's former palace were located and members of the Benin Cultural Heritage staff were trained in the planning and practical aspects of the conservation programme.

The Benin authorities have currently allocated additional funding to pursue a conservation plan, partly financed by the World Heritage Fund, aimed at establishing the necessary partnerships, increasing the museum's resources, strengthening the management and staff, assembling a data base on the site and reinforcing its legal protection with a view to obtaining the removal of the site from the List of World Heritage in Danger within the next five years. 

In 1895 the French possessions known as Benin were incorporated into the colony of Dahomey and postage stamps of Dahomey superseded those of Benin. Dahomey took the name Benin when it became an independent republic on 30th November 1975. At the same time the name was changed to People's Republic of Benin.

Sources and links:

There are at present no other World Heritage Sites in Benin. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Benin-section, for further information about the property.  

Back to index


Revised 20 jul 2006  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
All Rights Reserved