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  • Writer's pictureChukwuebuka Ilozumba

TFE 4 – Religion and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

The practices of the Orthodox Church are global and well-known. However, there are some uniqueness it possesses in the Ethiopian religion world, hence, a unique name that distinguishes it: The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. With almost 50% of the Ethiopian population as its members, it can be viewed as the State Religion.


From the bible, Egyptians and Ethiopians were no strangers to the Israelites. The story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in the bible book of Acts of the Apostles Chapter 8 lends credence to this. It is not in doubt how Christianity was able to arrive in Ethiopia. As a highly conservative people, they absorbed Christianity in a way that did not make them let go of their culture. This is further expressed in the holy images that are made and used in the country as many biblical images seen in the country are depicted in black skins. This permeates even their art. No wonder Rastafarians highly regard and revere the country.


Ba'eta Le Mariam (Presentation of the Virgin Mary to the Temple) Monastery Church
Worship Drum used in the Temple

The Ba'eta Le Mariam (Presentation of the Virgin Mary to the Temple) Monastery Church, also known as the Ta'eka Negest (Resting Place of Kings), was constructed by Empress Zewditu in 1927. The religion as it was run, was considered a part of the state just as it was with the Israelites. This was in tradition with the monastic life of most believers. Monasteries have long been part of the religious landscape of the country, with one of the oldest monasteries in the world – Debre Damo – located in the Tigray, Northern region of the country.

Empress Taitu, Emperor Menelik II, Empress Zewditu, Empress Menen Asfaw, Emperor Haile Selassie
Empress Taitu, Emperor Menelik II, Empress Zewditu, Empress Menen Asfaw, Emperor Haile Selassie

The Ba'eta Le Mariam Church, built with stoned walls is a beauty to behold. First observation in the country as regards churches, was how passersby paused to bow and make a sign of the cross when walking across any church building. Women are expected to cover their hair to walk through any of the gates and Ba’eta Mariam Church was not an exception. The construction is such that layers are created within like a circle, with those in each inner layer slightly elevated and worshipers not able to see those in other layers while the prayer is going on. The “innermost” layer, with the highest elevation point at the center is reserved for the Priest-in-charge and from whence the worship service is led.


Outermost Layer - Ba'eta Le Mariam Church
The Outermost Layer in the Temple

Within this majestic “Temple-Church”, lies the treasure cove of the mausoleum. This Mausoleum contains the tombs and final resting place of Menelik II, Empress Taitu (his wife) and Empress Zewditu herself (his daughter and builder of the structure). Royal artefacts and images are equally preserved in this underground chamber.

Ba'eta Le Mariam Church
Underground Chamber Museum Library
Ba'eta Le Mariam Church
Treasure Troves at Ba'eta Le Mariam Church

Ba'eta Le Mariam Church
Treasure Troves at Ba'eta Le Mariam Church

To visit this structure, no fee is requested but you are expected to generously tip the Guide. Being in tune with nature, we noticed some giant African tortoises roaming the area. Departing the mountain upon which the church was constructed, we would encounter a herd of donkeys, reminiscent of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. On a cold windy day, the spiritual and nature combo was an awesome feeling. It was now time to retire for some culinary vibes.

Front View - Ba'eta Le Mariam Monastery Church
Front View - Ba'eta Le Mariam Monastery Church
Herd of Donkeys downhill Entoto Park
Herd of Donkeys downhill Entoto Park

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