Debre Berhan Selassie Church, Gondar, Ethiopia

The Church of Debre Berhan Selassie – Photo by Bernard Gagnon – November 2012

Debre Berhan Selassie Church and Monastery is located in northern Ethiopia in the town of Gondar. It is part of a larger UNESCO World Heritage Site known as Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region, inscribed in 1979 for its Outstanding Universal Value.

King Fasil (Fasilides) officially founded the town of Gondar in 1634 as the capital of the Ethiopian Empire. The World Heritage Site is home to royal palaces, historic libraries, monasteries and churches dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, built by King Fasilides and his successors.

The church of Debre Berhan Selassie is a modest stone building surrounded by an exterior stone wall.  It is particularly well known for its interior filled with extraordinary examples of Ethiopian Christian Church art painted in what is known as the second Gondarine style.

Interior of The Church of Debre Berhan Selassie – Photo by A. Savin – February 2018

The biblical scenes are vividly remarkable and the interior paintings cover the walls and ceilings in richly applied red, blue and golden hues. Subjects include the Holy Trinity – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, seated above Christ on the Cross.

The Holy Trinity – Photo by Sam Effron – October 2008

Be sure to locate the symbols of the four Evangelists surrounding the Trinity. These are painted in a charming Medieval style: the lion on the lower left represents Saint Mark; the oxen on the lower right symbolizes Saint Luke; the winged bird on the upper right illustrates Saint John; and, on the upper left, a winged man stands in for Saint Matthew.

The upper sections of the church walls are covered with panels that depict familiar biblical figures and stories.

Frescoes of Saint George Slaying the Dragon, The Assumption of Mary, and other biblical Subjects – Photo by Bernard Gagnon – November 2012

Pictured below is perhaps the most endearing sight – the ceiling of the church is completely covered by the faces of cherubic angels peering down at visitors.

Ceiling Painting – Photo by A. Savin – February 2018

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