Petit Futé's opinion on SAINTE-MARIE-DE-SION
The rectangular church, the ancient temple forbidden to women, was built in the seventeenth century by King Fasilidas at the very location where what was undoubtedly the first church in Africa, erected at the beginning of the fourth century under Ezana's rule. Enlarged in the living century by King Kaleb who made it a majestic cathedral, the building was probably destroyed after the fall of the kingdom of Axoum then again, in the sixteenth century, during the raids led by Gragn.
Its current architecture, marked by the elevation of niche walls on a three-neored three-neonged plane, is a reminder of the architecture of Gondarian buildings. The building, where some Ethiopian sovereigns received the sacre, houses an interesting collection of musical instruments and crosses.
In 1952, Haile Emperor Sélassié began the construction of a new cathedral to recall the spiritual significance of the place, the birthplace of Ethiopian Christianity (allowed for women). Also dedicated to Sainte-Marie de Sion, the Basilica, which depicts a little in the landscape, was inaugurated in 1965 in the presence of Queen Elisabeth II of England.
Between the two churches is a strange chapel that houses the thickest mystery of Ethiopian history. She passes to host the legendary Ark of Alliance, subtracted from the eyes of men and kept by some kind of volunteer prisoner reclusive for life in the building. Forbidden to women, the basement of the building contains an important treasure composed of crosses, crowns and various musical instruments.
In the garden of this vast sanctuary, we will note the presence of large blocks of cut stone, which are the bases of ancient trones where Ethiopian rulers were crowned, but who were probably also dedicated to prechristian deities.
Outside the enclosure, the small church of Arbatu Ensessa deserves a detour for its remarkable wall paintings.
Information on SAINTE-MARIE-DE-SION
Open Monday to Friday from 7.30am to 12.30pm and from 2.30pm to 5.30pm, Saturday from 9am to 12pm and from 2.30pm to 5.30pm. Admission 200 birrs (more 100 birrs for the cameras). Interdict partly with the women.
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