1770s, later generations saw the royal church as one of its essential legacies. The 'judges', who succeeded the Gondar kings, each found the establishment of a church an important act of legitimation for his reign.47 So, too, did the rulers who aspired to resurrect the monarchy in the later nineteenth century, with one significant exception: Tewodros, who, from the 1850s onwards, did so much to set the model of restoration.
We have already noted how Tewodros restored the authority of the bishops and insisted on doctrinal unity and the suppression of sectarianism. However, he resented the landed wealth ofthe Gondar churches, and, for him, the dabtara associated with them epitomised the decadence into which the kingdom had fallen. During the second year of his reign, he and the Gondar clergy came into confrontation to which both authority and the control of land were central.48 Ironically, this confrontation brought about a rapprochement between the clergy and the bishop, which reinforced the king's institutional reforms, while his detestation of Gondar and its clerical establishment intensified with each passing year. Tewodros founded no churches of consequence, and, towards the end of his reign, launched a root and branch assault against the Gondaïr churches. He plundered and burned the city and its churches in 1864 and in 1866, adding to the royal treasury 'everything of value' from the churches, 'bells, chalices, crosses of gold and silver, and almost one thousand manuscripts'.49
His successors, Takla Giyorgis II (1868-71) and Yohannes IV, were as ostentatious in their restoration of the Gondar churches as Tewodros had been in their destruction. Yohannes proved attentive to an array of historical churches, first among them being Aksum S. eyon, where he was crowned. Following the precedents of Zar'a Ya'qob and Iyasu I, he founded the church of Dabra Berhan Sellase in Adwa, and under his tutelage one of his principal vassals, King Takla Haymanot of Gojjam, made numerous foundations throughout the lands under his control.50
In 1889, following the death in battle of Yohannes, the throne passed to Menilek of Shawa, a province associated with the earliest years of the Solomonic dynasty, but one which had been cut off from the rest of Christian
47 Examples of such establishments, each of which evoked one or more Gondar models, are: the churches of Qeddus Mika'él, Adwa; Darasgé Maryam; Qaranyo Madhané Alam; and Mot'a Giyorgis; for which see Crummey, Land and society, 108, 111,154,157.
49 S. Rubenson, King of Kings: Tewodros of Ethiopia (Addis Ababa: Haile Sellassie I University, 1966), 71-2. The bulk of these manuscripts, following a British military expedition to Ethiopia in I868, ended up in the British Museum and are now in the British Library.
50 Crummey, Land and society, 205-7, 2I0-I4. Also Habtamu Mengistie, 'Lord, Zeéga and peasant in rural eastern Gojjam', unpublished MA thesis, Addis Ababa University, 2003.
Was this article helpful?