Thursday, April 12, 2007

Holy Trinity Cathedral

(March 17, 2007: Addis Ababa.)

The tomb of Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of the famous Emmeline Pankhurst. Sylvia Pankhurst was a defender and exponent of Ethiopia, loved by many.

detail from the throne of Emperor Haile Selassie

a mural depicting Haile Selassie speaking to the League of Nations in Geneva

in the room containing the tombs of the Emperor and Empress, these mysteriously draped chairs had no explanation -- they were just there for me to photograph

Holy Trinity Cathedral, sometimes called Selassie Cathedral, north of the city centre on the Entoto Road, is reached after passing many other important sites and beautiful landmarks. The biggest Orthodox church in the country, it is also a tribute to some of the painful episodes in the country's more recent history.

On the grounds, memorials to some of the country's heroes can be found. See my previous post about the gardens.
Inside the cathedral, two elaborate thrones of the Emperor Haile Selassie and the Empress Itege Menen, are located under the central dome. In the central dome, four different murals depict some relatively recent events of Ethiopian history. Of the four, I remember in particular the depictions of the massacre of Ethiopian resistance fighters armed with medieval weapons at the hands of the Italians in a three-day blood-bath in Addis Ababa in February, 1937, and the exiled Emperor Haile Selassie speaking before the League of Nations on June 30, 1936. His pleas for the liberation of Ethiopia from Italian occupation fell on deaf ears.

During the revolutionary years after the early 1960's, the aging Emperor Haile Selassie died under mysterious circumstances, allegedly at the hands of his successor, Mengistu Haile Mariam, a military man who came to power in the midst left wing student protests, and widespread dissatisfaction with the old empirical regime, taking advantage of a fractured military coalition that had dissolved parliament and established a provisional government. Haile Selassie had been under virtual house arrest and his death came on the heels of the infamous footage of starving children juxtaposed with glimpses of sumptuous emperial banquets broadcast by the BBC. The remains of the Emperor have been rumoured to have been buried in all sorts of demeaning places, under Mengistu's office, even under Mengistu's toilet.

In 1991, one of the most miserable and infamous periods of Ethiopian history came to an end as an alliance of opposition groups defeated Mengistu and he went into exile in Zimbabwe. The remains of the Emperor Haile Selassie were exhumed and temperarily buried at Ba'ata church, also called the Beta Maryam Mausoleum, the mausoleum of the prior emperors Menelik, Taytu and Zawditu. At last, in 2000, the Emperor's family were permitted to hold a final funeral for him. His remains, with the Empress Menen's, now lie in Gondorian style tombs found in the wing north of the cathedral's Holy of Holies.

In colourful Ethiopian style, the Emperor's final funeral was not without it's conflicts. While the government issued statements decrying the days of the old emperor's rule, Rastafarians who had settled around Sheshamene, south of the capital, called it a sacrilege.

To the amusement of many Ethiopians who considered the Emperor to be human with human flaws, many in Jamaica, where Marcus Garvey's "Return to Africa" movement had taken hold, saw the crowning of Haile Selassie as emperor in 1930 as the fulfillment of prophecy. They took their name from Ras Tafari, the name Haile Selassie had before adopting a new name when he was crowned emperor, and many Rastafarians came and settled in Shashemene, a busy cross-roads town, south of Addis Ababa.

Establishing a new religion based in part on holy scriptures and partly on individual inspiration experienced by the ritual use of ganga (marijuana), the Rastafarians objected vociferously to the idea that their god, the King who had come out of Africa, was to be given any sort of public funeral. They claimed that the exhumed remains were a blasphemous lie, that their Emperor-God was not dead.

Otherwise, the cathedral is an odd mixture of architectural styles, with typical Christian paintings of the gospel stories found around the interior walls of the main sanctuary.

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Blogger Tyra said...

Hallo Kati.....finally after a long time looking I found a blog of my taste. Thank you, now I´ve something exiting! to read.
Tyra in Vaxholm Sweden

2:05 p.m.  
Blogger Kati said...

Thanks, Tyra! I'm glad you are enjoying my blog. Come back to visit often!

11:54 a.m.  
Blogger barry said...

Greetings Kati, Thank you for your comments on His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I. I would like to mention about the worship of His Majesty as God, it is true that a lot of Rastafarians hold that view, also some Ethiopians. There are many articles quoting the same thing, but there is one body of Rastafarians that recognised His Majesty as the CARETAKER of the Throne of King David & King Solomon, until the Crucified Christ return in Glory. The TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL is the only Christian body of RASTAFARIANS. Thank you and God Bless, One Love, Barry.

10:09 p.m.  
Blogger Kati said...

Thanks, Barry, for expanding my understanding of Rastafarians! I'm quite sure I still know only a tiny part and I appreciate you taking the time to enlighten me.

11:38 a.m.  

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