Amaat Vyncke

Zedelgem 12.02.1850 - Kibanga 17.10.1888

Amaat Vyncke studied at the minor seminary in Roeselare and the college in Menen. He suspended his studies to become a papal zouave at the age of seventeen and stayed in Italy for two years, though he was not involved in any fighting. Having returned to Roeselare he remained an active supporter of the zouaves and became the leader of the local student zouaves. He was one of the leading figures of the West-Flemish student movement, under the influence of his teacher Hugo Verriest. He was nicknamed "The Rat".
He co-founded the West Flemish Guild in 1873 and also the student magazine De Vlaamsche Vlagge (The Flemish Flag). He became a seminarist in 1875 and taught at the minor seminary for a short while. On June 11th, 1876 he was ordained priest and became curate at Adinkerke for three months. On October 11th, 1876 he started working as curate in Dudzele.
There he was important for the social and cultural life and received visitors such as Albrecht Rodenbach, Hugo Verriest, Pol De Mont and his good friend Gezelle. In 1881 Vyncke was one of the creators of ‘t Manneke uit de Mane (The Man in the Moon).
Thanks to cardinal Lavigerie’s intervention he managed to set off for Africa to accompany the fourth caravan of White Fathers, despite an initial refusal of bishop Faict. He arrived in Algiers on July 16th, 1881 to start his novitiate at the Maison Carrée. Vyncke returned home after a trial year and established an apostolic school in Lille. He attended medical courses at the university, in order to leave again for Algeria on March 18th, 1883. He perfected his knowledge of Swahili and corresponded with Gezelle on linguistic topics. On April 23rd, 1883 he left for Zanzibar aboard the three-master Patna. After a month’s travel Vyncke arrived in Zanzibar where he joined the caravan to its final destination Kibanga in Upper-Congo. He began building his mission and was not only a spiritual leader but a farmer, physician, photographer, teacher, watchmaker and abolitionist as well. He sent stacks of colourful letters to the homeland in which he described his adventurous life with a touch of humour. The letters were published in three volumes. Vyncke died in Africa on October 17th, 1888 of liver disease and swamp fever.
Gezelle wrote the poem "Gij zijt de vriend van God" (You are The Friend of God) on the occasion of his solemn memorial in Kortrijk on July 25th, 1889. The poem was used on the memorial card of his dear friend. Gezelle had earlier written a poem on the occasion of Vyncke's ordination into priesthood as well as the poem “Vyncke, Vyncke, Vyncke”.
“Vyncke "The Rat" got through everywhere. He grubbed and chopped, he gnawed and bit. He would have sacrificed leg and tail in fighting and held and dragged along with bleeding head and muzzle, triumphantly, whatever he had stolen, robbed or captured.”
Hugo Verriest - Twenty Flemish heads ( (1901)
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