ÆTHIOP SOC Publications

Magazine in the works, titled, "The Ancient AEthiopian Civilization", other Publications are yet forthcoming (see Journals).


The history, buildings and treasures of a Church compound with a painted Church in the Semen Mountains" Dr. Dorothea McEwan

Review by Rev. Deacon Gabra ’AGZI’AABHÎR JR

President of the Aethiopiological Society

[Ambassador of Ethiopian Historic Heritage Conservation & Development Association]

The story of Däräsge Maryam as presented by Dr. Dorothea McEwan an archivist, theologian and prolific author of over twenty books is an historical account comprised of Æthiopian ecclesiastical art and architecture.

The present work is divided into five parts and also contains an appendix, bibliography, list of plates (figures) and interestingly & importantly, a more than ten page alphabetical index of names, terms and places, besides footnotes; which turns the work into a short (180pp.) but real reference book. At the outset a favourable map is presented that one may be acquainted with the locale in discussion, which is in the Semen Mountains in northern Aethiopia.

The Historical Context: this is the title of the first section, which begins a geographical outline to the town and the Church compound of Däräsge Maryam. The following excerpt attest to the care taken with attention to detail, as pertaining to topography and the direction of river flow “Mekane Berhan, [is] the last town on the road, on a southern spur of the mountains. From there they fall steep down to the Bäläsa River before the river unites with the Bälägäz River, the biggest tributary to the Täkkäze River, one of the westwards flowing rivers of the highlands. The church compound of Däräsge Maryam is situated 5 km north-west of Mekane Berhan.” (p.13). Hence one may appreciate the attention given in researching the rest of the historical aspects of the Æthiopian Church and compound in question.

Other topics covered within this section include, the (2.) Introduction to the historical situation c.1850; (3.) Däggazmac Haylä Maryam Webe; (4.) Däggazmac Kasa Haylu, later Tewodros II; (5.) Abunä Salama; and (6.) Europeans in Ethiopia. Adventures, scientists, missionaries colonial officers, among others. The first of these (2.) begins with a quite brief outline of Christianity in Aethiopia, wherein are however brief, a number of features salient to mention. Dr. McEwan describes how Aethiopia “as a country, it evaded colonisation by European Powers.” a statement that is usually found and cherished both by indigenous Aethiopians and West Indians alike, therefore the sensitivity of this European writer is self evident in noting this. Again as touching sensitivity, this time of the ancient Apostolic Church, although the expected or accepted date of establishment is given, yet it is apparent the writer is certainly theological in her outlook, for in a footnote /ft.23./, she corrects the common Western error that the Oriental Churches (of which Aethiopia is one), hold to a monophysite belief, but as she rightly puts “Hence, these Oriental Orthodox Churches are also called myaphysite Churches, meaning Christ's nature is united in his divinity and humanity” (p.15). It is also of interest that Dr. Dorothea McEwan also considers these Churches as “Old Orthodox churches” , which issues forth a real appreciation.

In (3.) and (4.), namely, Däggazmac Haylä Maryam Webe & Däggazmac Kasa Haylu, later Tewodros II, a context is established in relation to the account of Däräsge Maryam Church. The relationship is laid out concerning these two rivals, and their attempts to ascend the Aethiopian imperial throne. In (5.) Abunä Salama, not to be confounded with Frîmnâtûs, surnamed ’Aabbâ Sâlâmâ I. The notable personalities then are all in full view, Abunä Salama III she records was “the 107th Metropolitan of the Ethiopian Orthodox church from 1841 to his death in...”. His not too amicable relationship with the Roman Catholic missionaries is also given therein. The account of a number of Germans are also spoken of, as they were present in Aethiopia at the time, namely, Georg Wilhelm Schimper (7.) & Eduard Zander (9.), who “were both called upon by Webe to oversee the construction of the church compound in Däräsge Maryam” (p.44). The latter of which (Zander), who had converted to the Orthodox faith, later married an Aethiopian wife, and had a daughter. The section closes with the (11.) Endowment Charter of Däräsge Maryam.

The Church and Church Compound: the second section is titled thus, it begins (12.) Preparing for a capital. The construction of the church compound. Mekane Berhan is further given here, as “situated on a flat expanse which is punctuated in the centre by a hillock” and she adds illustrating it beautifully “West of this hillock the mountains rise and on a flat step, in a grove of acacia and juniper trees, [thus] one can glimpse the church compound of Däräsge Maryam” (p.70). A number of etymologies are then presented, from various sources, some reasonably contemporary with the founding of the Church. A review of previous historical Churches near the site of Däräsge Maryam are then covered.

Other themes visited within this section are (13.) Walls and gatehouses; (14.) The Tower or 'Castle' and the bells; (15.) The church ground, the sacred grove; (16.) The roof cross; (17.) The church building; and (18.) Webe's funeral chapel. In the second of these (14.) one’s attention is drawn to the apparent Church bell of Däggazmac Haylä Maryam Webe, as the subtitle perhaps does suggest. She writes “Webe had a bell, as Webe in a letter from June 1844 requests from Bishop de Jacobis and Schimper a replacement for a broken bell.” she proceeds “Webe wrote: 'Earlier I had a bell which an Egyptian brought me” (p.78). On completion of the Church of Däräsge Maryam all that was yet needed was the bell, which her research also furnishes us with the conclusion thereof as follows “[a]ll that was left was to put a building for the bell from Rome, which had cost...a gift from Pope...” (p.80).

In (15.) above, a perceptive note is given that “Churches are built in olive groves or in higher altitudes in dense strands of juniper trees” (cf. Isa.ii.2 ). Moreover, Muslims have their places of worship in the plain or valley, but interestingly, she speaks of Muslim cemeteries to the contrary, that is, in this case at least, higher. Again an interpretive note is added hereto “Churches were usually built on...hills overlooking the surrounding villages, called däbr, literally 'mountain'” (p.81). In (16.), that is, The roof cross, a significant discussion is unfolded in regard to the ostrich eggs thereon. And although it is common place to find the ostrich eggs atop the Æthiopian Churches, as in this case as 'metal' representations; however, one will also find them in the Ægyptian Churches, but hanging before the Holy of Holies, being an actual large ostrich egg, oft decorated with pearls . The author gives the local interpretation of the meaning or purpose of the ostrich egg. In (17.) we find the full name of the Church here given, which is not simply Däräsge Maryam. We also learn herein that the researcher visited the Church or Monastery on a number of occasions, resulting in the book which is here in view. It must be noted here that Dr. Dorothea McEwan moves rightly very cautiously, when attempting to describe the sacred 'tabot', which is to say, the Ark of the Covenant. No attempt has been made by the author to sketch or photograph a sacred tabot, for this would be tantamount to sacrilege, therefore we are left to measured words. What is said though very contemplatively is the following “A tabot is a sacred object, only seen by clergy. In procession it is carried aloft, often on the head of the officiating cleric, wrapped in precious cloth....Its impact and significance cannot be overstated.” (fn 277; p.84). Thereafter a very captivating discussion is given on the differing forms or shapes of Churches in Aethiopia. But so that all may be riveted when reading the book themselves, all one will say concerning this is, that the author contrasts the eight-sided/round Aethiopian Churches to the “round churches in Jerusalem” and the “octagonal Crusader churches” (the latter, as the name suggests, would not necessarily be from the time of the Western Crusaders, that is, from about the 11th - 13th centuries, but would predate this). The Octagonal-Churches in Aethiopia certainly do follow a pattern that is apostolic in nature and essence.

In (18.) or Webe's funeral chapel, a number of stunning images are given over several pages, included upon these leaves are several which are from the book of the Apocalypse showing the harlot upon the beast (Rev.xvii.3). There is also an image from the Däräsge Maryam illuminated Book of Revelations; one encourages for further reading on these 'Picturing Apocalypse at Gondar' by Robin McEwan (Edited by Dorothea McEwan).

The Paintings: is the section that painstakingly catalogues and describes the iconographic parts of the Church of Däräsge Maryam (Darasgî Mâryâm). The following subdivisions are given: (19.) General observations on the wall paintings; (20.) The wall paintings in particular. The painted tambour; (21.) The painted doors; (22.) The painting programme of each wall. West wall; (23.) East wall; (24.) North wall; (25.) South wall; (26.) Free standing painting ‘The Emperor surrounded by lions’. Painstakingly does the author describe each and every scene on the fresco like walls, namely, the Western, Eastern, Northern and Southern walls. A large fold-out image of each wall is inserted as part of the book, giving a thoughtful edge thereto. Each fold-out does not only present the images, but also a plan of each wall, including a numbering system which represents each icon. Therefore the East wall has 61+ icons while on the other hand, one can easily determine that the West wall contains 35 such images; this thanks to the authors thoroughness. Moreover each image is described.

The remainder of the book comprises of two sections: The Treasures in the Store House: wherein are excerpts from Aethiopic MS. of Revelations /BL, Or. 533/ in comparison to (28.) The Däräsge Maryam Book of Revelations. [And] The Surroundings: wherein are the (32.) Concluding Remarks. Ours are that, this is a most vital read for any historian or ecclesiastic.

Publisher: LIT Verlag ISBN: (978) 3-643-90408-9
Format: Paperback Publishing Date: 6th Nov 2013

LIT VERLAG Dr. W. Hopf UK – www.central books.com [Germany] Berlin 2013 £24.95 http://www.lit-verlag.de USA – www.litwebshop.de €39.90

Review by – Aethiopiological Society (AETHIOP SOC);
Reviewer - Rev. Deacon Gabra ’AGZI’AABHÎR JR



'The Story of Däräsge Maryam:
The history, buildings and treasures of a Church compound with a painted Church in the Semen Mountains'

Author: Dr. Dorothea McEwan
Publisher: LIT Verlag [Germany](http://www.lit-verlag.de; Dr. W. Hopf)
Publishing Date: 6th Nov 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: (978) 3-643-90408-9
£24.95 (UK – www.central books.com)
€39.90 (USA – www.litwebshop.de)



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Songs, Honor and Identity among Ethiopian Jews in Israel'

Author:- By (Dr.) Marilyn Herman,
Published:- (2012 G.C.) By Africa World Press/ Red Sea Press.
ISBN (cloth):- 1-56902-327-1
ISBN (Soft Bound):- 1-56902-328-X

Note:- Recently published - 'Book launch' will be on the 17th January at SOAS, hosted by the Centre of African Studies - 5-6.30pm London, Great Britain.
The foreword has been written by Dr PTW Baxter, Senior Lecturer (retired), Department of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester. (Somehow his position and affiliation haven't appeared in the book.)
(For futher on, Book launch, follow link >>> www.soas.ac.uk)



'The Ethiopian Commentary on the Book of Genesis:
Critical Edition and Translation'

Author:- By (Dr.) Mersha Alehegne
Published:- Harrassowitz Verlag · Wiesbaden (2011 G.C.)
ISBN 978-344706430-9
ISSN 0170-3196
Note:- Critical Text in Gǝ'ǝz & Amharic with Translation in English.
(For Pdf. of 'Contents Page and Acknowledgments, follow link >>> PDF)

This important book has been
Review by James C. VanderKam
for the 'Review Of Biblical Literature'
at 'Book Reviews.org'

(For Pdf. of 'Review, follow link >>> PDF)



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