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hard to translate into real power. Church property came under the control of local institutions, which in turn were the basis of local autonomy. The bishops had no substantive role in the process of royal land granting, although they often supported the grants with their formal sanction. The royal court provided such national organisation as the church possessed, but in cooperation with the bishops and prestigious monastic leaders - first the Aqabe Sa'at, prior of Hayq Esdfanos, and later the Ecage, or prior of Dabra Libanos. This recognised, de facto, the power and autonomy of the monasteries, but did little to curb them. In this situation the royal church functioned as an alternative local node of authority and influence, one directly dependent on royal patronage, at least in origin.

The rulers, from Yeshaq (1413-30) onwards, were prolific founders of churches.40 Yeshaq founded churches and endowed existing monasteries in the Lake Tana region. Zar'a Ya'qob founded numerous churches: Dabra Nagwadgwad and Makana Sellase in Amhara; Dabra Metmaq and Dabra Berhan Sellase in Shawa. All these churches were magnificent, but Dabra Berhan Sellase may have been the most important to the king. This seems to have been how later generations saw the situation for, over 200 years later, his descendant, Iyasu I (1682-1706), revived the name for his own most favoured church.41 Zar'a Ya'qob also endowed existing monasteries, and is probably responsible for the ascendancy which the monastery of Dabra Libanos of Shawa and its monastic followers of Takla Haymanot were to enjoy down into the twentieth century. Ba'eda Maryam's son Na'od (14951508) founded Makana Salam and was buried there. For Alvares, Makana Salam was the paradigmatic royal church. Immediately following his departure from Ethiopia in 1526 the great jihad of Ahmad ibn Ibrahim Gran broke out. It brought the plundering and destruction of the royal churches, Makana Sellase, Dabra Nagwadgwad and Atronsa Maryam prominent among them. Yet the conqueror of Gran, Galawdewos (1540-59), and his principal successor, Sarsa Dengel (Sprout of the Virgin) (1593-97), both revived the tradition and founded churches whose splendour still resonates.42

40 Sèè Crümmey, Land and society, 30; R. E. Chèèsman, Lake Tana and the Blue Nile: an Abyssinian quest (London: Macmillan, 1936), 168-71.

41 F. A. Dombrowski, Tanasee lo6: eine Chronik der Herrscher Athiopiens (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1983), i, 36 (text); ii, 155 (trans.); Pèrruchon, Chroniques, 52-7, 67-8, 70-3, 86-7, 91-2 and loi; G. W B. Hüntingford, The land charters of northern Ethiopia (Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies and Faculty of Law, Hailè Sèllassiè I University, 1965), 36-8, docs. 17,18,19 and 20. Sèè Crummey, Land and society, 30-1, 88-9.

42 Sèè Crümmey, Land and society, 38-41, 55, 59 (table 4).

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