Debre Birhan Selassie Church

The Debre Birhan Selassie (Trinity and Mountain of Light) Church in Gondar is famed for its beautiful examples of Ethiopian church art. Built by an emperor and preserved by an archangel, it is also among the most important churches of Ethiopia.

Debre Birhan Selassie was built by Emperor Eyasu II (also known as Birhan Seged, "He to Whom the Light Bows") in the 17th Century. It was named Debre Birhan, "Mountain of Light," after the Emperor's nickname as well as in honor of the church of the same name in Shewa.

At the Debre Birhan Church in Shewa, a miraculous apparition of the Holy Light of God is said to have occured in the Middle Ages during the reign of Emperor Zera Yacob the Great. In exchange for the right of using its name, the Gondar church paid the Shewan church an annual tribute.

When the Mahdist Dervishes of the Sudan sacked the city of Gondar in 1888, they burned down every church in the city except Debre Birhan Selassie. According to local legend, when the Mahdist soldiers approached the church, a swarm of bees decended on the compound of the church and kept the soldiers back, and the Archangel Michael himself stood before the large wooden gates with a flaming sword drawn.
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