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Christianity in Ethiopia goes back to the 4th Century when a Christian philosopher and his two students, traveling from India to Syria, were shipwrecked on the Red Sea coast. While Meropius the philosopher was promptly beheaded, the two youths, Frumentius and Edesius, were captured as slaves and taken to Axum in the Ethiopian highlands. King Ezana of Axum became fond of them and in time they rose to high positions in his administration, and were eventually granted their liberty. It is these two who are credited with introducing Christianity to Axum.
Edesius returned to his native Tyre, but Frumentius was sent to Christian Alexandria for an audience with Patriarch Athansios to request a bishop for Axum. The Patriarch appointed Frumentius himself as the first bishop, who returned to Axum to start his mission. Over the centuries, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church continued to be linked to the Patriarchate of Alexandria which sent Egyptian Coptic bishops until 1951 when it became autarchic, under an arrangement instigated by Emperor Haile Selassie.
Modern Ethiopia is just over 50% Orthodox Christian, while the rest is Muslim as well as Roman Catholic, and animist in the South. Up until the death of Haile Selassie in 1974 after a Communist coup, tens of thousands of monks lived in monasteries throughout the highland region. Life became difficult after the coup, but since democracy was reinstated in 1991, the life of the Church and religious orders has again improved, although not with the numbers they had before. There are two kinds of monks: those who live permanently in monasteries and study usually from an early age. And those who become monks when they retire from normal working life, and eke out their final years as wandering mendicants.
Many of those, both male and female, can be seen at Lalibela living in caves surrounding the many ancient churches such as Giorgis and Golgotha, especially on feast days. Thousands also come during the annual Feast of Mary in Axum when they camp around the cathedral of Saint Mary of Zion, which is in the vicinity of a chapel which houses the Ark of the Covenant. Several monasteries are included in this set of photographs, including Debre Damo, Debre Zion, Ambo and Abuna Garima, with images of the resident monks as well as the Patriarch Abuna Paulos visiting the monastery he attended as a young monk.
#04et254, 64-year-old Meregeta Zewde Tadesi, a scribe who was trained in Gondar, inscribing his name and a prayer book which he spent many years to write by hand before selling it to a tourist, Bilbala village, near Lalibela.

04et254 - 64-year-old Meregeta Zewde Tadesi, a scribe who was trained in Gondar, inscribing his name and a prayer book which he spent many years to write by hand before selling it to a tourist, Bilbala village, near Lalibela, Ethiopia.


#05et228, Patriarch, Abuna Paulos, of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, during Feast of Mary, Axum.

05et228 - Patriarch, Abuna Paulos, of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, during Feast of Mary, Axum.


#04et010,  Tullo Gudo island and monastery of Debre Zion, Lake Ziway. Ancient parchment bibles and other books stored in church.

04et010 - Tullo Gudo island and monastery of Debre Zion, Lake Ziway. Ancient parchment bibles and other books stored in church, Ethiopia.


#05et268, Procession of monks at the Abuna Garima monastery, Tigray, during the visit of His Holiness, Patriarch Paulos, who used to be a monk at the monastery, Ethiopia.

05et268 - Procession of monks at the Abuna Garima monastery, Tigray, during the visit of His Holiness, Patriarch Paulos, who used to be a monk at the monastery, Ethiopia.


#04et196, Debre Damo monastery. Tigray. Scaling the 18 metre cliff to reach the monastery which is at the top. Only men are allowed up. Several people die every year making the dangerous ascent.

04et196 - Debre Damo monastery. Tigray. Scaling the 18 metre cliff to reach the monastery which is at the top. Only men are allowed up. Several people die every year making the dangerous ascent, Ethiopia.


#04et069, Boys eating a meal of injera, at the minor seminary for Orthodox priests at Ambo.

04et069 - Boys eating a meal of injera, at the minor seminary for Orthodox priests at Ambo, Ethiopia.


#05et221, The Maryam Feast, Feast of Mary, at Axum. Exterior of the church of Saint Mary of Zion, Ethiopia.

05et221 - The Maryam Feast, Feast of Mary, at Axum. Exterior of the church of Saint Mary of Zion, Ethiopia.



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