Ethiopian Monastery Backyard, Church of The Holy Spulchre, Jerusalem
Ethiopian Monastery in Jerusalem also known by the name Debre Sultan and also Deir es-Sultan, is actually on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem is the last stronghold of the Ethiopians in Jerusalem. The Ethiopian community has been residing in Jerusalem for the last two millennia, dating back to the 4th century A.D.
Till the 16th century Ethiopians in Jerusalem owned four chapels in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. These were Chapel of Our Lady and of St. John the Evangelist, Chapel of St. Michael, Chapel of St. John the Baptist, and Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene. However, they lost all these chapels due to the lack of aid from the Ethiopian Emperors. From the written documents of French pilgrim Charles Philippe de Champermony we come to know about the Ethiopian's presence in Debre Sultan. Yet they still preserved the Ethiopian Monastery in Jerusalem by sacrificing their lives and health. In the 18th century an Egyptian named Ibrahim Giuhari and his 8 slaves came to the monastery and claimed the monastery. Therefore, the Copts intervened and forced the priest of the Ethiopian Monastery in Jerusalem to hand over the keys to them. The worst enemy struck the Ethiopian Monastery of Jerusalem in 1838 in the form of a plague which killed all the nuns and monks save two. Therefore the Copts and the Armenians burnt down the library of the monastery and all the valuable documents and manuscripts were lost.
In 1850, however, again the Ethiopians got the keys to the monastery, though the Copts kept the chapels of St Michael and the chapel of the Four Creatures permanently locked for 80 years from the year 1862. Therefore the Ethiopians were forced to erect a huge tent for celebrating various festivals and this tradition is still followed.
When you enter the Ethiopian Monastery in Jerusalem, then you will find that the whole church is carpeted. The walls and columns of the monastery have paintings depicting the Holy Family and the famous saints of Ethiopia. But the look of the church might disappoint you since it shows the poverty in which the community is submerged.
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Text by Steve Smith.