Gondar

Gondar ,the 17th century capital of Ethiopia,is a historic town that is found 748 kms to the north. Founded by Emperor Fasilidas around 1635, the city is famous for its many medieval castles and the design and decoration of its churches built between 1632-1855 by the various Emperors who reigned during this period.These dramatic castles, unlike any other African buildings , display a richness in architecture that reveals the Axumite traditions as well as the influence of Arabia.

Gondar's rise to prominence under Fasilidas occurred little less than a century after Ethiopian Christendom had come close to total destruction at the hands of the Islamic warlord, Ahmed Gragn, whose forces swept in from the east in 1528. During the time of the Portuguese travels in the Ethiopian region (1520 - 1527 CE), Gondar was but little more than a small village community of peasants and military composts. For in the 1520's it showed absolutely no sign of any advancement to come, neither from any growing form of economy nor a strategic establishment of any significance. However, by 1630 it possessed not only the thrown of the ruling family in Abyssinia, but also the renaissance culture of the liturgy and artistry, which is recognized as the beginning of its modern form in Ethiopia.

The main castle was built in the late 1630s and early 1640s on the orders of Fasilidas. The Emperor, who was greatly interested in architecture - St Mary's in Axum was another of his works - was also responsible for seven churches, a number of bridges, and a three-storey stone pavilion next to a large, sunken bathing place, rectangular in shape, which is still filled during the Timkat season with water from the nearby Qaha river. 
Emperor Bakaffa left two fine castles - one attributed directly to him and the other to his consort- the Empress Mentewab 
Bakaffa's successor, Iyasu II, is regarded by most historians as the last of the Gondar Emperors to rule with full authority before the coming of puppet kings.
Within easy reach of Gondar lies a monastery, the ruined palace at Kusquam, and the church of Debre Berhan Selassie with its unique murals. The town itself has a lively and interesting marketplace.

Debra Berhan Selassie

Iyasu's long-lasting accomplishment, was the Church of Debra Berhan Selassie "the Light of the Trinity". Debra Berhan Selassie represents a masterpiece of the Gondarian school of art.

It stands, surrounded by a high wall, on raised ground to the north-west of the city and continues to be in regular use. A plain, thatched, rectangular structure on the outside, the interior of Debra Berhan Selassie is marvelously painted with a great many scenes from religious history. The spaces between the beams of the ceiling contain the radiant wide-eyed images of more than eighty angels' faces - all different, with their own character and language.

The north wall, in which is the holy of holies, is dominated by a depiction of the Trinity above the crucifixion. The theme of the south wall is St Mary; that of the east wall the life of Jesus. The west wall shows important saints, with St George in red-and-gold on a prancing white horse.

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