Jesuit missionaries arrived in Ethiopia in 1557, as part of larger movements which had brought both the Ottoman Turks and the Portuguese into the north-west Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. The Jesuit mission rested on a fundamental misconception that the Ethiopian court was prepared to embrace Catholic belief and practice.57 The Jesuit mission comprised six members led by Bishop Andre de Oviedo. Its claims to the allegiance of Ethiopia's ruler were quickly disabused by Emperor Galawdewos, but out of his dialogue with the missionaries came a seminal statement of Ethiopian belief, the so-called Confessio Claudii.58 The emperor eventually banished the Jesuits, who took up residence in the northern province of Tegre at a place called Fremona, not far from the modern Adwa. There they were a dwindling presence until the last Jesuit died in the 1590s.
Their mission was renewed with the arrival in Ethiopia in 1603 of Fr Pero Paes, who found an Ethiopia deeply shaken not only by decades ofwar against the Oromo but also by a prolonged succession struggle, which had broken out in 1597 on the death of Emperor Sarsa Dengel. One of the contenders, ZaDengel (1603-4), brought Paes to court and tentatively committed himself to the Catholic faith, thereby setting a precedent which influenced his immediate successor, Ya'qob (1604-7), and, more importantly, the eventual victor, Susenyos (1607-32).59 In 1617 the latter's interest in, and commitment to, Catholicism provoked a major rebellion, which with the active support of the Orthodox bishop Abuna Sernon raised the banner of Orthodoxy. Susenyos crushed the rebellion and the bishop lost his life. Four years later the court led by Susenyos formally committed itself to Catholicism, an undertaking maintained in the face of mounting rebellion until 1632, when the intensity
31-56. A primary text is I. Guidi, 'Uno squarcio di storia ecclesiastica di Abissinia', Bessar-ione 8 (1900), 10-25. Texts, expressive of some of the views circulating in the early seventeenth century, are to be found in E. Cerulli, Scritti teologici etiopici dei secoli XVI-XVII, 1, Tre opuscoli dei Mikaeliti (Vatican: Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, 1958).
57 Important sources are Chronique de Galawdewos (Claudius) roi d'Ethiopie, ed. W. E. Conzel-man (Paris: E. Bouillon, 1895); The Portuguese Expedition to Abyssinia in 1541-1543, as narrated by Castanhoso, with some contemporary letters, the short account ofBermudez and certain extracts from Correa, ed. R. S. Whiteway (London: Hakluyt Society, 1902).
58 See L. Lozza, 'La confessione di Claudio re d'Etiopia', Rassegna di Studi Etiopici 5 (1946), 67-78.
59 Major sources for this period are Chronica de Susenyos, rei de Ethiopia, ed. F. M. Esteves Pereira (Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional, 1891-1900), 2 vols.; Rerum Mthiopicarum scriptores occidentales inediti asœculo XVIad XIX (Rome: C. de Luigi, 1903-1917), 15 vols. Still useful are Balthazar Tellez, The travels of the Jesuits in Ethiopia . . . (London: J. Knapton et al., 1710); Job Ludolf, New history of Ethiopia (London: Samuel Smith, 1682). See nowPennec, Des Jésuites au royaume du Prêtre Jean.
Was this article helpful?