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King Fassiledes Palace

Gondar

The Middle Era(Gondar)

Gondar was the first capital to unite Ethiopians as an Orthodox nation, changing it from a Catholic nation, under their converted king following help he received from Portuguese. This king abdicated in favour of his son, Fasilledes, who began, in 1632, the castle/palace building. There are at least 6 castles within the defensive wall, built by a succession of kings, over a period of 236 years, so Gondar is called "the Camelot of Ethiopia".

A new Period, claiming lineage from King Solomon of Israel and Queen Sheba of Ethiopia, came to power in the mid-sixteenth century. This new period continued expansion and pursued a more aggressive policy towards the South. The kingdom found itself combating the growing influence of the Muslims closer to home in the coastal regions of Ethiopia. Religious and ethnic conflicts climaxed in the sixteenth century. The weakened Christian kingdom was pressured by Oromo insurgents in the South and by Muslims from the coast. The Muslim advance was turned back with Portuguese assistance. The contact with the Portuguese ended a long period of isolation from the rest of the Christian world. The Portuguese however brought their own religion, Roman Catholicism, with them and the Jesuit and kindred orders sought to convert the Ethiopians. Ethiopian leaders wanted the Portuguese as military allies only and resented their attempt to convert Catholicism. By 1632, after a civil war between adherents of Catholicism and Ethiopian Orthodox, Susenyous abdicated his power to his son Fassiledes and he shifted the capital from Gorgora to a very strategic place Gondar which stayed for more than 200 years as a permanent capital, administrative, commercial, religious and cultural centre, and a number of castle like palaces were built. Learning the problems from his Father King Fassiledes had a restoration of Orthodox Christianity and the Catholic and Jesuit missionaries were expelled from Ethiopia and foreign interaction was again limited.

The age old historical town situated 748k.m from Addis and 183k.m from Bahir Dar, and has considerably fascinating structure. The oldest and the most impressive of Gondar’s imperial structure is the two storeyed  palace of emperor Fassiledes which is built for roughly hewn brown basalt stone held together with mortar said to have been the work of the Indian architect. The building has a flat roof, a rectangular tower in the south west corner- which affords a view of lake Tana in the distance four smaller doomed towers and a battlemented parapet.

The baths of King Fasilledes, which is a "castle" standing in a very large pit, which is dry at the whole year, but on 19th January each year, it is filled with water and communal baptisms are carried out.

    
CHURCHES OF GONDAR

Gondar is known for its tremendous churches. Today are about 44 churches, some of which especially those with paintings or owing manuscripts, are worthy of somewhat detailed description.
    
DEBRE BIRHAN SILLASSIE CHURCH

situated on te crest of the hill a 30minute walk to the northeast of Gondar in a peaceful park of old Junipers and olive trees, was constructed during the reign of emperor Iyasu(1682-1706)
This church was never destroyed, it said that when the dervish tried to burn it in 1881 they were attacked and dispersed by bees.
It is a rectangular similar to those of the axumite architecture. The main entrance has two high doors and high wall around it with 12 towers (for the 12 apostles - symbolism and religious numbers are very relevant in Ethiopia). Between the two first rooms above the centre division is the “emperor” for the emperors a small outside staircase leads to it. The inside walls of the front room are covered with paintings on a cloth glued to the surface. The ceiling is built with thick beams and is decorated with winged angel heads looking down. The walls painting depict scenes from the life of Christ, Mary with "eyes that follow you around the room", the saints and the trinities and others. The style of the paintings is doubtless typical Ethiopian. Although during that time Europeans influence became stronger. Different in style are the angels Gabriel and Raufa’el on the doors to the holly of hollies in the centre room, the ceiling of which is also painted with angel heads.

MEDHANE ALEM CHURCH

This church lies in the centre of the town of Gondar. It was first built under the reign of Emperor fasil, was later burned and destroyed, and was then reconstructed after 1881. It is a typical Ethiopian round church with twp circuits. All other walls of the holly of hollies are covered with paintings on cloth glued to the walls. The painting represent the Ethiopian style of the 19th c. but copy to a great extent the 17th c.
In Gondar there are also many other churches which I could not describe deeply. Among this Gimjabet Maryam church which in the courtyard contains the tomb of the British consul Plowder Atatame, Mika’el church, Ilfign ghiorgis church, TekleHaymanot church, Aba tsehale Tekle haymanot church, Qeha Yesus church, aba Antoniuos church, Kidus Yohanes church, Lidetta Maryam church and fit abo church can be cited.