By Eileen Moyer
University of Amsterdam (formerly University of Iowa)

Amhara peoples, Ethiopia, Christian monks. Photo by Allen F. Roberts.

More than a thousand years before the Portuguese first introduced Christianity to Africa’s west coast, Frumentius, a Syrian Christian, was ordained as Ethiopia's first bishop, and the King of Ethiopia was converted to Christianity. Christian Ethiopians believe that they are directly descended from King Solomon and that the presence of the Ark of the Covenant on Ethiopian ground is an indication of the presence of God in their kingdom. According to tradition, Menelik, the son of Solomon, was anointed by his father as King of Ethiopia and carried the Covenant, which contained the tablets of Law given to Moses by God from Israel to Ethiopia (Grierson 1993). During Ethiopian religious processionals, a model Ark containing a stone (tabot) symbolizing the sacred tablets is carried along with crosses in an act which commemorates Menelik's journey from Israel to Ethiopia. The tradition of Christian art and architecture in Ethiopia is among the finest of Christian art throughout the world.