The Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion is the most important church in Ethiopia, and claims to contain the Ark of the Covenant.
It is located in the town of Axum in the Tigray Province. The original church is believed to have been built during the reign of Ezana, the first Christian emperor of Ethiopia, during the 4th century AD, and has been rebuilt several times since then.
(I grew up watching Indian Jones movies with my father and brother; this made a great impression on me as a child and most definitely boosted my love affair for ancient lands and relics. You just gotta love this stuff! -Sola)
St. Mary of Zion claims to contain the original Ark of the Covenant. Reportedly, the Ark was moved to the Chapel of the Tablet adjacent to the old church because a divine ‘heat’ from the Tablets had cracked the stones of its previous sanctum. Emperor Haile Selassie’s wife, Empress Menen, paid for the construction of the new chapel.
According to tradition, the Ark came to Ethiopia with Menelik I after he visited his father King Solomon. Only the guardian monk may view the Ark, in accordance with the Biblical accounts of the dangers of doing so for non-Kohanim. This lack of accessibility, and questions about the account as a whole, has led foreign scholars to express doubt about the veracity of the claim. The guardian monk is appointed for life by his predecessor before the predecessor dies. If the incumbent guardian dies without naming a successor, then the monks of the monastery hold an election to select the new guardian. The guardian then is confined to the chapel of the Ark of the Covenant for the rest of his life, praying before it and offering incense.
St. Mary of Zion was the traditional place where Ethiopian Emperors came to be crowned. And indeed, if an Emperor was not crowned at Axum, or did not at least have his coronation ratified by a special service at St. Mary of Zion, he could not be referred to by the title of “Atse”.
In the 1950s the Emperor Haile Selassie built a new modern Cathedral that was open to both men and women next to the old Cathedral of Our Lady Mary of Zion. The old church remains accessible only to men, as Mary, symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant allegedly resting in its chapel, is the only woman allowed within its compound.
His Royal Highness Prince Ermias Sahle-Selsssie Haile Selassie discusses his work.
Speaker Biography: Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie is president of the Crown Council of Ethiopia. He is the only son of Prince Sahle Selassie of Ethiopia and Princess Mahisente Habte Mariam. He is the grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, and also of Dejazmach Habte Mariam Gebre Igziabiher, the heir to the former Welega kingdom of Leqa Naqamte. Prince Ermias was named recipient of the ISSA Silver Star Award for Outstanding Contributions to Strategic Progress Through Humanitarian Achievement by the International Strategic Studies Association, for his work for Ethiopian refugees in Africa.
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