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Africa’s Ethiopia is a nation with a long history of Christianity. It has a thriving creative legacy and is home to hundreds of ancient churches and monasteries perched on difficult-to-reach mountains, concealed by dense forest, or encircled by the peaceful waters of one of its lakes.

What is Christian art in Ethiopia?

Given that approximately half of the population identify as practicing Christians, Christian art and church building must have begun soon after the spread of Christianity in Ethiopia and have continued ever since. While archaeological evidence suggests that Christianity spread after the conversion of the Ethiopian king Ezana during the first half of the 4th century C.E., the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church asserts that Christianity entered the country in the first century C.E. (thanks to the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch described in Acts of the Apostles 8:26–38).

Therefore, “Christian Ethiopian art” refers to a body of tangible evidence that was created over a considerable amount of time. This broad definition of Orthodox Christian spaces and artworks includes churches and their decorations as well as illuminated manuscripts and a variety of objects (crosses, chalices, patens, icons, etc.) that were used for the liturgy (public worship), for learning, or that merely expressed the owners’ religious beliefs. We might assume that from the thirteenth century on, Ethiopian clergymen produced the majority of the artwork.

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