A look at Entoto Maryam(part 2)
According to sources in the church, the establishment of Entoto Maryam came through prophecy. Long before the reign of the Emperor Menelik, there was prophesy about a king who would build a church in honor of the Virgin Mary on Entoto Mountain. At around 1880 the then king of Shewa Menelik waged a war against Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam at Embabo which he won easily.
It was then that he decided to bring the ark of Entoto Maryam to Shoa which he kept at first in a small house in Entoto, the location for the present church. Subsequently, the ark was moved to its present location after the church was built with financial contribution by Empress Taitu. The Empress took it upon herself to take care of the church and even became its first administrator. During the next years, the church exhibited growth and development.
On 3 November 1889, Abuna Matewos, the bishop of Shoa, crowned Menelik II the emperor of Ethiopia at this church. As the venue for his coronation, Menelik gave Entoto Maryam the title of Ri’se Adbarat (first among its peers and head of all churches).
In Fasil Giorgis and Denis Gerard book “Addis Ababa, The City and its Architectural Heritage”, it was stated that after the foundation of Addis Ababa, during the church’s annual celebration in the month of October, the emperor and the empress, accompanied by their entourage, used to travel to Entoto to attend the ceremony and spend the night there. That period was considered the golden era of the Entoto Maryam Church. To show their respect, notables such as Ras Wolde Giorgis, Ras Tessema Nadew, Fitawrari Habte Giorgis. Kegnazmatch Kifelew and others organized banquets for the clergy.
When Empress Taitu passed away she was buried there. The tomb still exists but her body was later taken to Baeta church in Arat Killo to join her husband’s. During the Italian occupation, Entoto Maryam was one of the places that faced potential demolition. It fortunately survived with minor damage. In fact, many people took refuge in it. Nonetheless, the golden crown of Menelik II, which he wore when he became Emperor, and large cannon that he had captured during the battle of Adwa was taken by the invaders.
Photographing inside the museum isn’t allowed but in the palace we were able to take as much photo as possible. Visitors could view the entire arena.
The palace which used to be Menelik’s and Taitu’s residence is a humble wooden house with mud-walled huts and high ceiling. It was built under the direction of Menelik’s Swiss advisor Alfred Ilg. It consisted of clusters of rooms with different functions, bedroom balcony, assembly and banquet hall, podium for the king and the queen, store where raw meat was hanged, princess Entrance, “Dejazmatch” entrance, guest house, and dining room.
We were told some restoration works to shore up the outer walls and foundations have been made but it is there to see the passing of the years have taken its toll on the building. The walls are crumbling.
Outside the palace, we have seen an eucalyptus tree which our guide said 120 years old. The guide said it was the first eucalyptus that Menelik imported from Australia.
Another old tree in the nearby St. Raguel church, was cut down by its new proprietors, the guide told us. In spite of recent effort of reforestation, the days of abundant eucalyptuses are long gone.
With Addis’s accelerating deforestation, much of the forest has gone, cut down for firewood and for house construction.
But it will always be a place worth coming. I promise to myself to come to this upper part of Addis more often.