Church of Yemrehanna Krestos

Church of Yemrehanna Krestos

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This landmark book is the first to integrate historical, archaeological, and art-historical evidence to provide a comprehensive account on one of the oldest Ethiopian churches. The church of Yemrehanna Krestos, situated in Lasta province, is named after the eponymous king of the Zagwe dynasty who is said to have ruled Ethiopia from this area for some forty years in the second half of the twelfth century. It is one of the oldest constructed churches in the country and one of the best preserved from the period. Its good condition can be attributed to the fact that it was built in a cave and thus entirely protected from the elements. The church is part of a royal site including a building considered to be the king's residence, an adjacent reception building, and a large necropolis with the tomb of Yemrehanna Krestos, his wife or daughter, and an Ethiopian metropolite. The church is particularly interesting in many ways. Its ground plan is derived from that of the Mediterranean basilica and presents a variant frequently used in Coptic Egypt. The central part of the sanctuary is covered by a dome painted inside with crosses and floral elements. The exterior walls present horizontal alternating dark and white bands of wood and plaster over stone, while elaborate window traceries are carved alternately in white stone and dark wood. Carved and painted wood (i.e. beams, wall panels, etc) dominates the interior, although some elements are executed in painted stucco. The church is further decorated with murals. Dated on stylistic and iconographical grounds to the 12th century, they are in fact the oldest Ethiopian wall paintings presently known. The images include a Christological cycle with a developed Passion suite and the figures of four mounted saints. The church also contains two ancient, portable wooden altars and two large 16th-century triptychs bearing many inscriptions, some of which are of historical value. Together with its sacral objects and manuscripts, it offers new material for the study of Ethiopian art and architecture and for the history of the country.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 240 x 280mm | 300g
  • Milan, Italy
  • English
  • 260 illustrations, 210 in colour, 50 in b/w
  • 885720457X
  • 9788857204574

About Ewa Balicka-Witakowska

Ewa Balicka-Witakowska, professor at the University of Uppsala, and Michael Gervers, professor at the University of Toronto, are authors of numerous essays on the anthropological evolution of the territories of various countries.
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