Exploring Madagascar: Admiring the Rova of Antananarivo

We continue the Madagascar city exploration by visiting the Rova of Antananarivo which is translated as ‘The Fort’’. This majestic and historic building is situated at an altitude of 200 metres on the highest hill of the capital city, the Analamanga hill (translated as ‘Blue Forest’). The original structure was made of wood but was later given its iconic silhouette in 1869, when Queen Ranavalona II commissioned a French architect named James Cameron, to encase the palace in stone. The Rova has a spectacular 360° view of Tana and its twelve sacred hills.

The historic boroughs around the Rova are Andohalo and Ankadibevava – on the West Ambohimitsimbina and Ambohipotsy on the East. On the south and north flanks of the Rova a 100-metre high cliff makes access almost impossible.

The Rova went through many changes in its lifetime, as you can see in the different map layouts below; the first map was from the 18th century and the second map is a more modern map revised in the 1990s. In November 1995, a fire broke out in the Rova compound, destroying or severely damaging all of its buildings. Once the flames had been extinguished, all that remained of the original structures were the stone shells of the royal chapel and Manjakamiadana. The restoration of the nine royal tombs in the Rova complex was completed in October 2003. Manjakamiadana serves as a museum exhibiting royal artifacts saved from destruction in the fire.

Map inside Madagascar’s Rova from 18th Century

Map of Madagascar Rova

Modern map of Madagascar’s Rova

Map of Madagascar Rova

What is inside the Rova – let us explore

As the legend in picture two shows there are so many sites to discover, but what does it all mean?

Firstly you need to enter through the northern gateway where you will discover the northeastern side of the Rova which houses the royal tomb of Queen Rasoherina and King Radama I.

Tranovola House

To the south of the Rova is the site of the Tranovola house, which was mostly lost in the fire, was a graceful avant-garde blend of Creole and Merina designs. When you venture behind the Tranovola site, there stands a reconstruction of the home of Andrianampoinimerina (first wife of the King) – the wooden Mahitsielafanjaka or Mahitsy, with its stone statue of a Sakalava royal eunuch standing guard.


As you walk towards the south side, you will cross the site of the Manampisoa or Lapasoa, meaning ‘Beautiful Palace’, built in the form of a cross for Queen Rasoherina.


At the south end of the Rova stands the Fiangonana or Royal chapel, Madagascar’s first Protestant church, built in Italian style in 1869.


At the southeast corner of the Rova are the foundations of the old Masoandro or Sun Palace, commissioned by Ranavalona III but was never finished.

Allow yourself an opportunity to visit this grand palace on your next visit to Madagascar to marvel at the historic icons and idolise the breath-taking views of the Island.

Madagascar Rova

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