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CLERIC, SCHOLAR, AND NEARLY A MISSIONARY: TESFA SEYON IN EARLY MODERN ROME. [Abstract ID: 0511-03]
This paper reviews the diasporic experience of Tesfa Seyon (ca. 1510–ca. 1550), a learned cleric from the monastery of Debra Libanos in Ethiopia, who lived in Rome between the mid-1530s and his premature death in the early 1550s. It focuses on his contribution as both a cultural and political broker as one of the best-known members of the Ethiopian community associated with the Roman church of Santo Stefano degli Abissini. Tesfa Seyon, who was responsible for facilitating the production of Ethiopianist knowledge in Renaissance Italy, should be regarded as one of the founders of Ethiopian studies and the central figure of the first center of Africanist knowledge in early modern Europe. Likewise, his intellectual and social standing in mid-16th century Rome allowed him to act as a precious informant to prelates and clerics invested in bringing Ethiopian Christians into Rome’s fold. In particular, he informed Ignatius of Loyola’s understanding of Ethiopian Christianity and lobbied to dispatch a Catholic mission to Ethiopia. Accordingly, Tesfa Seyon should also be regarded as a central figure in the development of the disastrous Catholic missionary effort in Ethiopia.