The discovery adds to our knowledge of Makuria, which ruled a vast region of Africa for six centuries.
Though more than 90 percent of Sudan’s population today practices Islam, the former Kingdom of Makuria emerged as a Christian stronghold in the 8th century. Makuria had its capital at Dongola, on the Nile in modern Sudan, where Polish archaeologists have been digging since 1964. The city’s Throne Hall, a royal building that was converted into a mosque when the kingdom fell, is perhaps the most prominent structure standing there from the Makurian period, alongside later Muslim domed tombs.
Obłuski said that his team had not expected to find a cathedral in the city’s ancient citadel, but instead some kind of town square. In the 1960s, a church had been discovered outside of Dongola’s walls and was presumed to be the ancient capital’s primary place of worship. The new find calls that presumption into question—and suggests there may have been a bigger, more dramatic one right in the middle of the city.