Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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DAWIT Teferi, Independent Researcher

In many Ethiopian church murals we get scenes depicting a man named Gigar. According to the Ethiopian Orthodox church literature, Gigar is credited for protecting the Holy Family against King Herod’s persecution during the family’s lesser known flight to Lebanon before the well known flight into Egypt. In the murals, Gigar is often depicted as he protects the Holy Family and gets tortured by Herod. Of eye-catching scenes, one illustrates a string with which Gigar was being tortured turning into a snake and strangling Herod. Unusual to a church painting, Gigar is also portrayed slapping Herod. This paper takes into account paintings from four churches: the 18th century Narga Sillasse at Lake Tana, the 19th century Debre Birhan Sillasse at Gondar, Abrha we Asbha in Tigrai and Ura Kidane Mihret at Lake Tana. Images involving Gigar from these churches will be described based on relevant literature of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and photographs of the murals taken over the last decade. Literature of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church about Gigar matches a lot with the scenes in the four churches proving that Ethiopian church artists depicted the scenes based on solid textual basis. A Geez text edited and published by Lanfranco Ricci in 1950 with the title “La Leggenda della Vergine al Libano e del Santo Gigar,” contains stories which match with all of the scenes in the four churches suggesting that this or a related text could be one of the literature served as a textual basis for the mural artists.