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Royal Hill of Ambohimanga

Royal Hill of Ambohimanga

The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga consists of a royal city and burial site, and an ensemble of sacred places. It is associated with strong feelings of national identity, and has maintained its spiritual and sacred character both in ritual practice and the popular imagination for the past 500 years. It remains a place of worship to which pilgrims come from Madagascar and elsewhere.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Colline royale d'Ambohimanga

La colline royale d'Ambohimanga se compose d'une cité royale, d'un site funéraire royal et d'un ensemble de lieux sacrés. Associée à un fort sentiment d'identité nationale, elle conserve son atmosphère de spiritualité et son caractère sacré, dans la pratique et dans l'esprit de la population, depuis quelque 500 ans. Elle demeure un lieu de culte et de pèlerinage que l'on vient visiter de Madagascar et d'ailleurs.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

التلة الملكية في امبوهيمنغا

تتألّف التلة الملكيّة في امبوهيمنغا من مدينة ملكية وموقع مأتمي ملكي ومجموعة من الأماكن المقدّسة. وتحافِظ، بما أنّها تُذكّر بشعور الانتماء الوطني، على الجو الروحي وعلى طابعها المقدَّس في الممارسة وفي ذهنيّة الشعب منذ 500 عام تقريبًا. وهي لا تزال مكانًا للعبادة وللحج نستطيع زيارته من مدغشقر ومن خارجها.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0



source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Королевский холм Амбохиманга

Амбохиманга – это королевский город, погребальный комплекс и целый ансамбль священных мест. На протяжении вот уже пяти столетий это место является важным символом национального самоопределения, сохраняя свое духовное и ритуальное значение, как в практике богослужения, так и в народном сознании. Объект посещается паломниками из Мадагаскара и других стран.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Colina real de Ambohimanga

La colina real de Ambohimanga comprende una ciudadela y una necrópolis reales, así como un conjunto de lugares sacros. Revestido de un carácter sagrado y estrechamente vinculado al sentimiento de identidad nacional, este sitio es objeto de veneración entre la población desde hace unos cinco siglos y sigue siendo, hoy en día, un lugar de culto al que acuden peregrinos de toda la isla de Madagascar y otras partes del mundo.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: NFUAJ

Koninklijke heuvel van Ambohimanga

De koninklijke heuvel van Ambohimanga bestaat uit een koninklijke stad en begraafplaats en een geheel van heilige plaatsen. Ambohimanga markeert het begin van het koninkrijk van Madagaskar en in deze religieuze heilige (hoofd)stad werden in de 19e eeuw de vorsten begraven. Aan de heuvel zijn sterke gevoelens van nationale identiteit verbonden en hij heeft de afgelopen 500 jaar zijn geestelijke en heilige karakter behouden voor zowel rituelen als volksverbeelding. De plek heeft sterke associaties met de verering van koningen en voorouders. De heuvel is nog steeds een plaats van aanbidding voor pelgrims uit Madagaskar en andere landen.

Source: unesco.nl

Royal Hill of Ambohimanga © OUR PLACE The World Heritage Collection
Outstanding Universal Value
Brief synthesis

The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga constitutes an exceptional witness to the civilization which developed in the ‘Hautes Terres Centrales’ in Madagascar between the 15th and 19th centuries and to the cultural and spiritual traditions, the cult of kings and ancestors which were closely associated there. The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is the cradle of the kingdom and the dynasty that has made Madagascar a modern state, internationally acknowledged since 1817. It is associated with strong feelings of identity and emotion relating to the sacred nature of the site through its venerated royal tombs, its numerous holy places (fountains, sacred basins and woods, sacrificial stones) and its majestic royal trees. Religious capital and sacred town of the kingdom of Madagascar in the 19th century, the Royal Hill was the burial ground for its sovereigns. The site retains clear archaeological proof of the former exercise of power and justice. It is still today the centre of the religious practices for many Malagasy people and constitutes a living memory of the traditional religion.

The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga comprises a system of fortifications with a series of ditches and fourteen fortified stone gateways, a royal city consisting of a coherent suite of buildings divided by a royal enclosure and associating a public place (the Fidasiana), royal trees, a seat of justice and other natural or built places of cult, an ensemble of sacred places as well as agricultural lands. The royal city comprises two palaces and a small pavilion, an “ox pit”, two sacred basins and four royal tombs. In addition, the designated property shelters vestiges of a primary forest conserving numerous endemic and medicinal plant species.

The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga constitutes an eminent example of an architectural ensemble (the Rova) and the associative cultural landscape (wood, sacred fountain and lake) illustrating significant periods of human history between the 16th and 19th centuries in the islands of the Indian Ocean. The particularly high elevation of the Rova indicates the political importance of the site and gives it a very significant place among the fortified groups of the Imerina (region of Antananarivo). Because of its geographical position, the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga offers a complete panorama, determining it as the strategic choice for a defensive residence. Thus, Ambohimanga bears witness to a strong royal power, a decision-making centre serving as a model for the future. The recognizable traditional Malagasy and European style of architecture of the royal city bears witness to the diverse political phases in the history of Madagascar.

The landscape of the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is associated with important historic events (Malagasy place of unification), as well as with traditions and living beliefs having an Outstanding Universal Value (ancestor worship). The eminently sacred character of the place and its components justifies the respect and veneration that the Malagasy people have demonstrated over centuries. The site constitutes a remarkable testimony to the austro-indonesian culture (Indonesia) through ancestor worship and agricultural practices, notably irrigated stepped rice paddy fields on the one hand, and the African culture (west and southern Africa) through the cult of the royal person, on the other. The Malagasy nation accords primary importance and absolute respect of the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, that they visit to imbibe the spirituality of the place, for renewal and request blessing and protection for all that they undertake in life. It is also a cult and pilgrimage place for the nation, as well as for numerous foreigners, and has been so for centuries.

Criterion (iii): The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is the most significant symbol of the cultural identity of the people of Madagascar.

Criterion (iv): The traditional design, materials and layout of the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga are representative of the social and political structure of Malagasy society from at least the 16th century.

Criterion (vi): The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is an exceptional example of a place where, over centuries, common human experience has been focused in memory, ritual and prayer.   


The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga has preserved its visual integrity. The site is in a good state of conservation, vegetation covers the slopes of the hill evenly despite the invasion of certain exotic or local species (bambusa, lantana, pinus). The forest on the Hill constitutes the most important residual element of the primary forest, with deciduous species that in earlier times covered the interior of Madagascar. This forest contains endemic, woody and herbaceous species and medicinal plants. The abundance of “zahana” (phyllarthron madagascariensis) and medicinal plants constitute the specific character of the Ambohimanga forest.  In addition, the forest has retained its regenerative powers and biogeochemical cycles, in particular that of the water, which continue to be active, ensuring the continual use of the sacred fountain and lake.


The layout at the summit of the Hill of the royal enclosure with its buildings is in conformity with the Imerina tradition, in particular, and of Madagascar in general. The sacred character of the site is manifested in the pilgrimages and sacrifices to which it is witness. The different elements that comprise it are representative of the traditional skills and beliefs: the homes of the living are made of wood and vegetation (living materials), while those of the dead are in stone (cold and inert materials). The materials used respect the construction traditions of their era. Restoration work undertaken since 1996 uses materials and construction techniques based on the traditional Malagasy skills and respects the cosmological vision of the place to preserve its authenticity. Furthermore, the sacred wooden houses, symbol of the royal tombs demolished by the French colonial authorities, were rebuilt in 2008 by the Malagasy State respecting the rites, the construction regulations and traditional materials (for the choice of wood essences in particular), due to their symbolic importance. Thus, the mortal remains of the sovereigns removed from the site in 1897 have been replaced in their original tombs to consolidate the sacredness of the site.

Protection and management requirements

The site of the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga receives adequate legal protection: incorporated into the Colony Domains Service since 1897, inscribed on the national inventory since 1939, the site benefits from the provisions of Ordinance No. 82.029 of 6 November 1982 and Decree No. 83.116 of 31 March 1983. In addition, the site also has municipal legal protection. However, there is a need to strengthen the legal framework to be compatible with the status of the property.

Since 2006, the designated property has been managed by the Office of the Cultural Site of Ambohimanga (OSCAR). This public establishment, created by the Ministry of Culture, has an Administration Council (deliberative body), a Scientific Monitoring Commission and a Management Planning Commission (consultative body) that work in close cooperation with the Conservator of the site. About thirty employees ensure the implementation of the 5-year management plan prepared in 2006. At the local level, the Rural Commune of the Ambohimanga Rova collaborates with the OSCAR to strengthen security at the site. The Village Committee, comprising representatives of all the adjacent quarters and the local community, (tradi-practitioners) are also involved in the protection of the site. The OSCAR manages the income from entrance fees and State subventions.

The spontaneous development of exotic species (bambusa and lantana) constitutes a threat which over time could degrade the natural landscape. Eradication actions have been undertaken but should be reinforced to rapidly and definitively replace these exotic species by endemic species. The risk of fire is another threat for the site (forest, buildings) and it is necessary to identify the financial partners able to contribute towards providing the designated property with an adequate fire-fighting system. Finally, the lack of town planning for the domain of the Rural Commune of Ambohimanga results in the local inhabitants deliberately ignoring the conservation measures proposed for the preservation of the visual integrity of the site. It would be desirable if a landscape development expert collaborates with the Commune of Ambohimanga to mitigate this gap.