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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Martina AMBU, PhD Candidate, Université Paris 1 - Panthéon Sorbonne, Department of History, France

Throughout the medieval period and until the mid-twentieth century, the Alexandrian Patriarchate had the sole authority to appoint the Metropolitan of the Ethiopian Church. This long institutional bond is to be found in the monastic world as well. The knowledge and memory of the Egyptian Desert Fathers arrived in Ethiopia through the Vitae of the main personalities of the early Coptic monasticism, as the Ethiopian monastic genealogies emphasised. According to these Ethiopian lists, Antony and Macarius of Scetis were the Fathers of both Egyptian and Ethiopian monastic experiences. My paper investigates then how this revised “history” and sacred “memory” led to a new specifically Ethiopian expression of the textual and visual iconography of these two Egyptian monks, portrayed as the father and son of the same Egyptian and Ethiopian monastic family. The impact that these two “reinvented” figures had on the Ethiopian hagiographical production will be discussed in the second part of this contribution: the memory of the struggles of these two Egyptian saints contributed to the gathering, inter alia, of Ethiopian communities inside the monasteries they founded. All along the Ethiopian textual tradition, a visit or a short stay by the main Ethiopian Fathers, such as Takla Haymanot or Ewostatewos, in the monasteries mentioned above – especially in Scetis monasteries – became a real topos in Ethiopian monastic hagiography, as a part of the Ethiopian monastic “cursus honorum”.