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Old Dongola (Old Nubian: Tungul; ) is a town in Sudanmarker, on the east bank of the Nile opposite the Wadi Al-Malik. It is 50 miles (80 km) upstream from (New) Dongolamarker. Old Dongola was the departure point for caravan west to Darfurmarker and Kordofan.
The Church of the Granite Columns
It was an important city in Mediaeval Nubia. From the fourth to the fourteenth century it was the capital of the Makurian state. In the Fifth Century Old Dongola was founded as fortress, but became soon a town. Latest with the arrival of Christianity it became the capital. Several churches were built. There was the Building X and the Church with the Stone Pavement. There were erected about 100 m apart from the walled town centre, indicating that at this time the town already extended over the original walls of the fortress.In the middile of the Seventh century, the town was attacked by the Arabs, but was not conquered. However, the two main churches were destroyed, but shortly after rebuild. Building material of the Old Church was used for supporting the city walls.
Plan of Old Dongala in the Medieval Period

The Building X was soon replaced by the Old Church.

The Church of the Granite Columns was erected at the end of the Seventh Century over the Old Church. It was perhaps the cathedral of Old Dongola and adorned with 16 granite columns. These columns had richly decorated granite capitals.Around the Tenth century, Old Dongola had its heyday. At the place of the Church of the Stone Pavements, the Cruciform Church was erected. At this time Old Dongola had many other churches, at least two palaces, and in the North a huge monastery. Several houses were well equipped and had bath rooms and wall paintings.

In the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century, the town lost importance. It was attacked by Arabs several times and the throne room of the palace was converted to a mosque.

Under the Funj, Old Dongola was the capital of the Northern provinces.

When the traveller C.J. Poncet travelled through the city, he described it as located on the slope of a sandy hill. His description of Old Dongola continues:
The houses are ill built, and the streets half deserted and fill'd with heaps of sand, occasion'd by floods from the mountains. The castle is in the very center of the town. It is large and spacious, but the fortifications are inconsiderable. It keeps in awe the Arabians, who are masters of the open country1

A Polishmarker archaeological team has been excavating the town since 1964.


  1. Charles Jacques Poncet in The Red Sea and Adjacent Countries, William Foster, editor (London: Hakluyt Society, 1949), pp. 99f.

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