The centromere is an essential chromosomal region required for accurate chromosome segregation. Most eukaryotic centromeres are defined epigenetically by the histone H3 variant, centromere protein (CENP)-A, yet how its self-propagation is achieved remains poorly understood. Here, we develop a heterologous system to reconstitute epigenetic inheritance of centromeric chromatin by ectopically targeting the Drosophila centromere proteins dCENP-A, dCENP-C, and CAL1 to LacO arrays in human cells. Dissecting the function of these three components uncovers the key role of self-association of dCENP-C and CAL1 for their mutual interaction and dCENP-A deposition. Importantly, we identify CAL1 to be required for dCENP-C loading onto chromatin in cooperation with dCENP-A nucleosomes, thus closing the epigenetic loop to ensure dCENP-C and dCENP-A replenishment during the cell division cycle. Finally, we show that all three factors are sufficient for dCENP-A propagation and propose a model for the epigenetic inheritance of Drosophila centromere identity.