Coronation Traditions in Imperial Ethiopia

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  • Coronation Traditions in Imperial Ethiopia
  • The Emperor of Ethiopia was crowned by the Archbishop of the Ethiopian Church appointed by the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Pope of Alexandria. An Emperor could not be crowned in the absence of a Bishop, nor could priests and deacons be ordained to serve the multitudes of the faithful, so Ethiopian monarchs went through immense trouble and expense to ensure that bishops were sent from Alexandria. Large sums were paid to the Coptic Patriarchate and to the Turkish authorities (later the Egyptian authorities) to obtain bishops. The absence of a bishop in Ethiopia prevented the coronation of Tekle Giorgis III, and was an element in his defeat and deposal by Yohannis IV in 1871. Yohannis quickly obtained 4 new bishops from Egypt. Traditionally, monarchs were crowned at St. Mary of Zion in Axum. However, because of the need to secure the throne rapidly and without causing uncertainty and disorder, often Emperor's were crowned at the closest and most convenient church of consequence, often before the death of the previous Emperor was announced. The new Emperor would release his accession proclamaition through his Afenigus (literally Mouth of the King) who in earlier times was the Imperial Spokesperson, but later the title of Supreme Court Judges. The speach of Imperial Accession usually had a set formula. The heralds would stand in the major town centers or market sites and proclaim "Yemotnew igna, yalenewim igna!" (It is us who have died and it is us that live!" refering to the death of the previous monarch and the accession of the new. The proclamation would direct farmers to continue to farm and merchants to trade, for friends to rejoice and enemies to fear, for "we are______ (name of new monarch), King of Kings!" The Empress Consorts were usually crowned by the Emperors in the Palace, at a coronation ceremony completely separate from that of the Emperor. However, Empress Mentewab recieved a church coronation as co-ruler and co-monarch upon the death of her husband Emperor Bekaffa and the succession of her underage son, Emperor Eyasu II. Much later, Empress Taitu was crowned, not in the Palace, but at Entoto Mariam Church by her husband Emperor Menelik II, on the second day of his 5 day coronation festivities. Empress Zewditu was Empress in her own right, and was crowned exactly as an Emperor would be by the Archbishop in the Cathedral of St. George in Addis Ababa. Emperor Haile Selassie's consort, Empress Menen, is the only Empress-Consort crowned by the Archbishop on the same day, place and time as her husband was crowned Emperor. The last Emperor crowned at Axum was Yohannis IV. Menelik II was crowned at Entoto Mariam, and Zewditu and Haile Silassie at the Cathedral of St. George in Addis Ababa.


    The Old Cathedral of Mariam Tsion (St. Mary of Zion) at Axum, where traditionally, the Emperors of Ethiopia were crowned.
    The Church of Kidist Mariam (St. Mary) on Mt. Entoto where Menelik II was crowned.
    The Cathedral of Kidus Giorgis (St.George) in Addis Ababa where Empress Zewditu was crowned in 1917, and Emperor Haile Silassie in 1930

    Some of the crowns of various Emperors of Ethiopia kept at Axum.


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