Visit to a Tanzanian Mission

April 4, 2018

 Peramiho Abbey, southern Tanzania 2007


I was born in Tanzania - then Tanganyika - and spent my childhood there. When I returned in 1984 I was fortunate enough to have opportunities to travel all over the country, especially in the south western regions. One time, we visited the famous mission established by German Benedictine fathers at Peramiho. 


It was a haven in the bush, self-sufficient and with many workshops and agricultural projects. I discovered that I could have my drawings printed onto cards which could then be sold at the mission and also back in Dar es Salaam where I lived at that time.


Ibuma, firing pots - drawing by Flo in 1985

Women going to the water point - drawing by Flo in 1985

Women fetching water - drawing by Flo in 1985


Here are a few of the designs I made at the time.


You can see some fascinating photos and read the history of Peramiho.



early days at Peramiho




Peramiho was founded on 31 st July, 1898 by Fr. Cassian Spiss of the Missionary Benedictines of St. Ottilien who had first arrived in East Africa in 1888 and had their first monastery at Pugu near Dar es Salaam. In 1902 Fr Cassian was nominated Vicar Apostolic of South Zanzibar (later Dar es Salaam) and consecrated bishop.

On 10th September, 1905 Peramiho was destroyed during the Maji Maji Rising and Fr. Franciscus Leuthner killed. In 1906 the Benedictines came back to resume their work which rapidly expanded. By 1911 catechism was taught at 50 differnt places. In 1913 Peramiho was included in the new Prefecture Apostolic of Lindi.

During World War I all missionaries were evacuated from Peramiho and interned by the British (1916). In 1918 Canadian White Fathers took temporary charge of Peramiho and other Benedictine missions in the area. In 1922 Benedictines of Swiss nationality returned under the leadership of Fr. Gallus Steiger who was named Prefect Apostolic of Lindi. Since 1926 Benedictines of German nationality were also allowed to return. In 1927 the Territorial Abbey of Lindi was erected and Fr. Gallus Steiger nominated first Abbot.

In 1931 the Abbey Nullius of Lindi was divided into two abbeys Nullius. Peramiho and Ndanda. Abbot Gallus became now the first Abbot of Peramiho and was consecrated bishop 1934. He built the present church of Peramiho between 1943 and 1948 and retired in 1953, staying on in Peramiho until his death in 1966. He was succeeded by Fr. Eberhard Spiess as the second Abbot-Bishop. In the course of the years 1968/69 Peramiho reverted to the status of a simple abbey, when its territory became two dioceses, Njombe (1968) and Songea (1969; since 1985 Archdiocese and in 1986 again divided with the errection of the Diocese of Mbinga). Abbot-Bishop Eberhard continued as Abbot of Peramiho until his resignation in 1976 after which he divided his time between the abbey and Mpandangindo Parish until his death in 1990. His successor as the third Abbot of Peramiho was between 1976 and 2006 Lambert Doerr. Since 8. August 2006 Anastasius Reiser is the fourth Abbot.

In 1972 the monks of Peramiho expanded the scope of their work to Kenya starting missionary work in the Kerio Valley, an isolated area within the Diocese of Eldoret. In 1977 a monastery was founded in the capital Nairobi with its own novitiate at Nanyuki. In 1988 the monastery in Nairobi became independent when it was erected as a conventual priory which was transferrred to Tigoni in 1992.

In Peramiho itself recruiting of local vocations only started in the 1980s, while before all local vocations to Benedictine life went to Hanga which had been founded for his purpose by Abbot Bishop Eberhard in 1956. Slowly the Abbey took on a ‘African face’ and now more than half of its members are Tanzanians.

There are two canonically erected houses which make up Peramiho Abbey: 
1. St. Benedict's Abbey Peramiho (Archdiocese Songea). 
2. St. Raphael's Priory Uwemba (Diocese Njombe).

The community has at present (Janary 2012) about 75 members: 15 brothers with temporary vows, 7 novices, 3 postulants and candidates. Of these about 60 live at the Abbey itself, while the others work and live in Uwemba Priory and in various parishes in the dioceses of Njombe and Mbinga.


This summary is indebted to the following books:

  • Lambert Doerr, O.S.B. (Hg.), Peramiho 1898-1998. In the Service of the Missionary Church. 3 Volumes (Ndanda-Peramiho 1998)

  • Felicitas Becker, Jigal Beez (Hg.), Der Maji-Maji-Krieg in Deutsch-Ostafrika 1905-1907 (Berlin 2005)

Some pictures have been taken from: Linus Leberle, Martyrerblut ist der beste Same für neues Christentum (St.Ottilien 1930)

Moreover the webmaster experienced the joy of many talks with his brothers at Peramiho, among them Abbot Lambert Dörr, Fr. Lucius Marquardt and Br.Polykarp Stich. Lots of thanks.


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