Monastic revival preceded the Solomonic rise.19 A formative figure in this revival was Iyasus Mo'a (Jesus has prevailed), who, around 1248, founded the monastery of St Stephen on an island in Lake Hayq.20 Iyasus Mo'a had started his career at Dabra Damo, one ofthe ancient monasteries of northern Ethiopia. Early traditions ascribe to him a pact with Yekunno Amlak, founder ofthe new dynasty, for whom his support seems, indeed, to havebeen important. From the community of Iyasus Mo'a monks dispersed across the landscape of Amhara and the province of Shawa, to its south, founding their own monasteries. The most famous of his disciples was Takla Haymanot (Plant of Faith), who founded the monastery of Dabra Asbo (later known as Dabra Libanos) around 1284, and who came, in the memory of later generations, to overshadow his master. 21
Thirteenth-century monasticism in central Ethiopia saw itself continuing a monastic tradition which reached back to Aksum. It was informal, charismatic and committed to poverty. Individual holy men settled in wild, unsettled areas, attracting followers and creating communities through the rigour of their practice. They survived by gathering wild fruits and hiring out their labour to nearby farm villages at harvest time.22 From this position of independence some found themselves increasingly drawn to political involvement. Most prominent was BaSalota Mika'el (By the Prayer of St Michael), a second-generation follower of Iyasus Mo'a.23 Meanwhile, the dynasty, having passed through a series of succession crises following the death of its founder, was now represented by the vigorous, expansionist Amda Seyon (Pillar of Zion) (1314-44), one of its greatest members.
In his first appearance at court BaSalota Mika'el attacked the metropolitan of the church, Abuna Yohannes, for simony. For this he was exiled to Tegré.24
19 On medieval Ethiopian monasticism see Taddesse, Church and state. But see also S. Kaplan, The monastic holy man and the christianization of early Solomonic Ethiopia [Studien zur Kulturkunde 73] (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1984); M.-L. Derat, Le domaine des rois éthiopiens (1270-1527): espace, pouvoir et monachisme (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2003).
20 The two oldest extant Ethiopian manuscripts are copies of the four gospels from this monastery: Ethiopian Monastic Microfilm Library, StJohn's University, Collegeville, MN, MS. 1832, Gold Gospel, HayqEstifanos; andPaulos Sadua, 'Unmanoscritto etiopico degli Evangeli', Rassegna di Studi Etiopici 11 (1952), 9-28.
21 For a rich account of the careers of Iyasus Mo'a and Takla Haymanot, see Taddesse, Church and state, 158-73.
22 Ibid., 110,172; Kaplan, Monastic holy man, 36-9, 54.
23 See S. Wolde Yohannes and D. Nosnitsin, 'BaSalota Mika'él', in Encyclopœdia Mthiopica, 1, 493-4.
24 Taddesse's account rests heavily on the hagiographies, published and unpublished, of the principal monastic figures involved. The royal chronicles also reflect these events: R. Basset, Etudes sur l'histoire d'Ethiopie (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1882), 10-11 (text);
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