Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa – Sunday, June 15, 2014

Front of The Holy Trinity Church, Addis Ababa

Front of The Holy Trinity Church, Addis Ababa

Churches are fascinating places to visit , particularly for historians and anthropologists,  Churches which are associated with the ruling elites of a country are especially fascinating places because they often give concrete visual expression to the values of a society in a given place and time.  Because they are associated with eternal values (at least the values seen as “eternal” by those who build them) what they emphasize (or do not) tells us a lot about the society that built them.

The Church of the Holy Trinity (more accurately known as Kiddist Selassie Cathedral) is one such place.  It is the “national cathedral” of Ethiopia, located in the heart of its capital city.

The cornerstone of the Cathedral was laid in 1933 by the young Emperor Haile Selassie, who was only about 4 years into his reign as Emperor of Ethiopia.  The cathedral is large, well-built, lavishly decorated, and surrounded by large grounds, in which are buried an assortment of members of the Ethiopian elite.  The surrounding cemetery is a place that one could wander for hours, looking at monuments and tombstones.  If you have had your hands on the levers of power in Ethiopian society (or if you want people to think that you moved in the most influential circles–and particularly if you have imperial connections) this is the place that you want to be buried.  It is the final resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife.  It is also where the beloved alte President of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi (arguably the best thing that happened to Ethiopia in the 20th Century) is buried (photographs of his grave and monument, alas, are not allowed).

View of the cemetery on the grounds of Holy Trinity Cathedral.

View of the cemetery on the grounds of Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Grave of a famous Ethiopian singer, Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Grave of a famous Ethiopian singer, Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Grave of a fallen military officer, Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Grave of a fallen military officer, Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Grave of a famous Ethiopian sports broadcaster

Grave of a famous Ethiopian sports broadcaster

Gravesite of the recently-deceased Governor of Oromia State, Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Gravesite of the recently-deceased Governor of Oromia State, Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Grave and monument of a recently deceased Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop.

Grave and monument of a recently deceased Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop.

"Parade of the Archbishops," a phalanx of graves of former archbishops lined up in their own special section of the cemetery.

“Parade of the Archbishops,” a phalanx of graves of former archbishops lined up in their own special section of the cemetery.

A circumambulation of the exterior of the church presents you with a constantly changing panoply of towers, columns, domes and pillars, all nicely done.

Front of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Front of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Exterior view of the dome of the church, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Exterior view of the dome of the church, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Exterior tower and colonnade, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Exterior tower and colonnade, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

The dome, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

The dome, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Exterior tower, with red, green, and yellow bunting (traditional colors) on display, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Exterior tower, with red, green, and yellow bunting (traditional colors) on display, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

On this Sunday afternoon, we entered the cathedral through a side door, under the watchful eye (and rather scowling face) of an archangel guarding the entrance.

Archangel guarding the side entrance to Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Archangel guarding the side entrance to Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

After taking off your shoes (a prerequisite for setting foot on any “holy ground” such as an Ethiopian Orthodox church) you enter a side aisle at the back of the church.  The cathedral’s interior is elegantly appointed and quite cool and pleasant.

Interior of the cathedral, side aisle, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Interior of the cathedral, side aisle, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Interior colonnade, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Interior colonnade, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Interior, Holy Trinity Cathedral, the ceiling.

Interior, Holy Trinity Cathedral, the ceiling.

Central aisle of the cathedral, looking towards the Holy of Holies.  The three figures at the top of the photograph are the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Central aisle of the cathedral, looking towards the Holy of Holies. The three figures at the top of the photograph are the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

The windows along the sides of the church are filled with wonderful stained-glass representations of Biblical scenes, all produced locally within Ethiopia.

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, stained glass window, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, stained glass window, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Moses bringing the Ten Commandments, stained glass window, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Moses bringing the Ten Commandments, stained glass window, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Noah giving thanks after The Flood, stained glass window, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa

Noah giving thanks after The Flood, stained glass window, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa

The birth of Jesus, stained glass window, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

The birth of Jesus, stained glass window, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

The crucifixion of Jesus, stained glass window, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

The crucifixion of Jesus, stained glass window, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

As you approach the front of the church, just before you reach the Holy of Holies, there are two slightly secluded areas at the very front of the church, one on each side.  In these two areas, two small private pews were built, one for Emperor Haile Selassie, and the other for his wife, the Empress.

Private pew of Emperor Haile Selassie, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Private pew of Emperor Haile Selassie, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

As you face the front of the church, directly to the left of the Holy of Holies, there is a small secluded area with two large stone crypts.  These contain the bodies of Haile Selassie and his wife.

After the Emperor was overthrown in 1974, he was held in virtual house arrest in a palace in Addis Ababa.  Eventually he was murdered–the most likely scenario is that he was smothered with a pillow in his bed by Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, the bloodthirsty leader of the Communist ruling clique (The Dergue).  The Emperor’s body was buried next to a latrine where it remained until after the overthrow of the Dergue regime.  Eventually the body was recovered and it was finally re-interred in its present location in Holy Trinity Cathedral in a lavish celebratory ceremony on November 5, 2000.

The tomb of Emperor Haile Selassie, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

The tomb of Emperor Haile Selassie, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

There is an elegant painted archway just over the Emperor’s tomb as you look up towards the sanctuary of the cathedral.  If you look carefully through the archway, you can see the painted dome of the cathedral.

Ceiling of the archway between the Emperor's tomb and the dome of the cathedral.

Ceiling of the archway between the Emperor’s tomb and the dome of the cathedral.

There is a mural on the wall of the dome.  The mural depicts the young Emperor Haile Selassie addressing the League of Nations, pleading for help from the other European powers to counter the invasion of his country by the Fascist Italian army under Mussolini–an attack undertaken in part as revenge for the humiliating defeat of the Italian army by the Ethiopians at the Battle of Adwa in 1896 (more on this later!).  It was Haile Selassie’s finest hour and it is still worthy of remembrance.

The young Emperor Haile Selassie pleading with the League of Nations for help in the face of the Fascist Italian invasion.  Dome of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

The young Emperor Haile Selassie pleading with the League of Nations for help in the face of the Fascist Italian invasion. Dome of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa.

Advertisements

One thought on “Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa – Sunday, June 15, 2014

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s