A Nigerian was a prominent scholar in 18th century Vienna.
Angelo Soliman was born circa 1721 in present day Northern-Nigeria.
He was from the Kanuri ethnic group and real name was Mmadi Make. It has been said that he was a prince in Sokoto before being kidnapped at the age of 7. He was taken to North Africa on a Spanish ship. After some time as a camel herdsman, he was sold yet again to someone simply known as Marquis in Messina on the Italian island of Sicily.
This was when he learnt how to speak Italian. After a serious illness, he was baptised and given the name Angelo Soliman. His name Angelo was a tribute to an African slave Angelina who worked in the same house with him. Angelo was taken by her kindness to him. As part of creating a new life for himself, he chose September 11 as his birthday.
Angelo soon became the valet and travelling companion of Fürst Johann Georg Christian Lobkowitz, the imperial governor of Sicily. The governor was able to get Angelo after begging his owner Marquis for him several times. Angelo accompanied him to military campaigns. It has been said that the Nigerian saved the life of Fürst Johann Georg Christian Lobkowitz in one of these campaigns. This led to his rise within the social life of this era.
Angelo was a brilliant individual and it took him only 17 days to be able to write German. This was just one of his many scholarly accomplishments. Not only could he write German, he could speak six languages- Italian, French, German, Latin, Bohemian, English.
In 1753, Lobkowitz died and Angelo Soliman was absorbed into the household of Prince Joseph Wenzel Liechtenstein. The reputation of Soliman quickly grew. He was soon known as the "noble Moor." He rose to become the chief servant and the tutor of the heir to the Prince, Aloys I.
In 1768 he got married to Magdalena Christiani the sister of the French General François Etienne de Kellermann. The marriage was done in secret.
Prince Joseph Wenzel Liechtenstein heard about his marriage and expelled him from his palace. Angelo Soliman bought a small house in the city of Vienna. Their union produced one child, a girl known as Josephine Soliman.
Two years after the death of the Prince, Aloys I re-invited Angelo Soliman invited him to the palace again to educate his sons. In September 1871, Angelo Soliman joined the Vienna Lodge of the Freemason Order known as "True Concord."
Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a member of the lodge. Records have it that Soliman and Mozart met on several occasions at the lodge. It has been said that the character "Bassa Selim" in the opera Abduction from the Seraglio written by Mozart. Soliman eventually became the Grand Master of the Mason lodge.
As the Grand Master, Angelo Soliman helped introduce scholarly elements in its rituals. This went on to influence Free masonic practices across Europe greatly. Till today, his influence is still very much felt. In Masonic circles, he is known as the "Father of Pure Masonic Thought."
On November 21, 1796, Angelo Soliman had a stroke on a street in Vienna and died at the age of 75. On the order of Kaiser Franz II, his body was skinned and stretched on a wooden figure. In essence, he was mummified and displayed for public exhibition at the Natural History Museum of the Imperial House of Austria.
Josephine Soliman wrote numerous petitions to the King to have Angelo's remains returned to his family. Nothing came out of them.
In 1848 the museum was engulfed in flames during the October Revolution which destroyed Soliman's corpse. A cast of his head is however still on display in the Rollett Museum in Baden.
Angelo Soliman's grandsons are Eduard von Feuchtersleben who is an Austrian writer and Ernst, Baron von Feuchtersleben an Austrian physician.
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