A man of remarkable intelligence, intelligence that won his freedom.

He spoke six languages fluently and could write three of them fluently as well.
He was also a master swordsman, war hero, chess specialist, navigation expert, concert composer, and a tutor to royalty.
He may have been the subject of Mozart’s popular opera The Magic Flute.
Soliman was considered one of the most learned people of his generation.

Angelo Soliman born in Africa in 1720/21 either to the Wandala or Mandara, a Muslim ethnic group in the Mandara Hills of Northern Cameroon but also in Bornu State Nigeria. His original name, Mmadi Make, is linked to a princely class in the Sokoto State in modern Nigeria. Around the age of 7 He was taken captive as a child and arrived in Marseilles as a slave, eventually transferring to the household of a marchioness in Messina who oversaw his education. Out of affection for another servant in the household, Angelina, he adopted the name Angelo and chose to celebrate September 11, his baptismal day, as his birthday. After repeated requests, he was given as a gift in 1734 to Prince Georg Christian, Fürst von Lobkowitz, the imperial governor of Sicily. He became the Prince’s valet and traveling companion, accompanying him on military campaigns throughout Europe and reportedly saving his life on one occasion, a pivotal event responsible for his social ascension. After the death of Prince Lobkowitz, Soliman was taken into the Vienna household of Joseph Wenzel I, Prince of Liechtenstein, eventually rising to chief servant. Later, he became royal tutor of the heir to the Prince, Aloys I.

A cultured man, Soliman was highly respected in the intellectual circles of Vienna and counted as a valued friend by Austrian Emperor Joseph II and Count Franz Moritz von Lacy. In 1783, he joined the Masonic lodge “True Harmony”, whose membership included many of Vienna’s influential artists and scholars of the time, among them the musicians Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Josef Haydn as well the Hungarian poet Ferenc Kazinczy. Lodge records indicate that Soliman and Mozart met on several occasions. It is likely that the character Bassa Selim in Mozart’s opera The Abduction from the Seraglio was based on Soliman. Eventually becoming the Grand Master of that lodge, Soliman helped change its ritual to include scholarly elements. This new Masonic direction rapidly influenced Freemasonic practice throughout Europe.

Remains dishonored in death

While Angelo was cultured and dressed in the latest European fashions in life, death was not so kind to him. Emperor Francis II, who came to power in 1792, had Angelo skinned upon his death in 1796 when he died of a stroke strolling the streets of Vienna. His body was taken to an anatomical theater where he was skinned and his skeleton was removed. His internal organs were then interred. His skin was given to the sculptor Franz Thaller who stretched it over a wooden model and then added stuffing to fill it out. The Emperor dressed the skin in what he thought was African garb and kept him in his wonder cabinet, a curio room. Eventually, Soliman was added to a display on Africa with a little girl, some animals, and an ex-zoo keeper who was also African. The display was destroyed in 1848 when a bomb being used to quell rioters hit the building where the display was stored and the display, thankfully, burned.
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