Monday, December 24, 2012

churches in ethiopia.

so, a few interesting facts about religion in ethiopia: about 60% of the population is christian (most being members of the ethiopian orthodox church), with most of the remaining 40-ish% are muslim.  in general, ethiopians are very, very devout. husband told me during the conference one night after dinner  he came across about 6-8 of the ethiopian students in a circle holding bible study. isn't that great?! also, ethiopians firmly believe that the original, we're-talkin'-straight-out-of-the-book-of-exodus ark of the covenant resides in a church northern ethiopia. it is kept under tight security, hardly viewed by anyone, in the church of our lady mary of zion in axum. axum is considered the holiest city in ethiopia, for obvious reasons i suppose. replicas of the ark are found in churches all across the country.

while in ethiopia, ben & i & a few other members of the workshop group got the chance to head up to the very tip top of mount entoto, the highest point in addis ababa & considered a sacred mountain. the top of the mountain is dotted with old christian churches & monasteries, & we were able to walk through a few!

many ethiopian churches are built in the same interesting way with a distinct pattern of 8 sides. we were able to go inside one (being led around by someone who worked there) & it had that distinct, not-unpleasant musty smell. the floor was just covered with layers & layers of persian-type rugs & only a few electrical lights were lit. most of the light was natural that came through the large, arched windows.

once inside (we had to take our shoes off), there is a pillar running from floor to ceiling made of eight huge connecting walls. a single door leads into the middle of these pillars. in the middle, a replica of the ark of the covenant is kept & only a priest can enter the room. the eight walls are completely covered in long, golden curtains. but pull the long curtains back (our tour guide would pull the curtain back, twist it around a few times, & wrap it around his waist as he talked!) & you're in for a surprise!

paintings paintings paintings!

how the original apostles were killed:

saint george killing the draon:

this is the actual ladder that the artist(s) used to paint the entire length of the walls.

a demon. don't want to cross this dude, am i right?:

paintings depicting miracles performed by jesus. see the little word-bubble-type captions in every one?

stained-glass window looking in (theoretically) to that middle chamber where so few can enter.

out on the balcony of the church after our little look-around. it was so, so peaceful up there. after being swallowed in the crazed, loud, thrilling streets of addis, it felt amazing that we could actually hear birds, the wind blowing, & leaves rustling. there was nobody else around besides our little group at the top of the mountain.

 something i love about ethiopian churches is the small attention they give to intricate detail. check out the borderline of this roof. & that string of lights! i wish we could have seen them all lit up in the dark:

 across the yard from this church was a large cave ground out of the rocky hillside. we were able to walk inside & there were 3 different rooms with huge rounded doorways that led into each one. this cave once served as a church. it was a little spooky with only a little bit of lighting, but man did i feel like we had stepped back into biblical times. a church cave carved out of the rock! i mean, you could just feel how old the place was. its ancient-ness was just seeping out of the rock. a replica of the ark was kept right in the very spot where this white structure now stands:

slightly spooky, right? can you imagine heading into the bad boy below back when there wasn't the saving grace of electricity?

in other news, there was definitely several graves in the yard. they only added to the overall hushed-reverence-in-the-face-of-spookiness feeling churches so often have.

here is the church we toured through in its entirety. i love the white. can you start to see the sharp, patterned eight-sided shape of it?


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