Mabille, Adolphe (1836-1894)

Paris Evangelical Missionary Society (PEMS) missionary in Lesotho

imageBorn at Baulmes, Vaud, Switzerland, Mabille received a strong formal education in Yverdon and at the Paedagogium in Basel. He taught French in the Netherlands and in Great Britain, where he received his call to become a missionary.  In 1856 he entered the PEMS School of Missions in Paris, where he met his future wife, Adèle Casalis (1840-1923), who was born at Thaba Bosiu, Lesotho, the daughter of PEMS director Eugène Casalis.  They married in 1859, wanting to serve in China, which was a new project of the PEMS inspired by Mabille; instead they were sent to Lesotho. Mabille served with great distinction at Morija from 1860 until his death.

His contributions pertain to four important areas of missionary service. First, in 1856, when he was still a missionary candidate, he suggested the use of ‘small change’ collection cards for fund-raising, which in spite of its modest goals became a major source of income for the PEMS. Second, he worked toward complete translation of the Bible into Sotho, which was achieved in 1879. He launched the first newspaper in Sotho, Leselinyana (The little light of Lesotho) in 1863, still published today, and in 1889 started a quarterly for church workers, Motsualle oa Baboleli le Nalisa ba likolo (The friend of preachers and shepherds of schools). Third, he encouraged and organized indigenous ministry. He installed the first Sotho minister, Esaia Leeti, at Kolo, near Morija, in 1863. He trained men for the ministry; a theological college was planned very early and finally opened in 1882. Fourth, he encouraged the church of Lesotho to engage in foreign missions. The first Sotho foreign missionary was Isaiah Seële, sent to pioneer among the Pedis of Transvaal in 1863. Other Sotho missionaries were sent in 1875 to the Banyais of Mashonaland (now Zimbabwe) and in 1883 to the Barotsis of Zambesi (now Zambia).

Marc R. Spindler, “Mabille, Adolphe,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 420.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.



Mabille, Adolphe. Sesuto-English Dictionary. 1876, 1894.


Smith, Edwin W. The Mabilles of Basutoland. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1939.