Tag Archives: Ethiopian Archives

Work in Progress: Ethiopian Archives in Jerusalem

by Stéphane Ancel, Open Jerusalem

Picture 1-Example of files from Ethiopian Archives

The presence of Ethiopians Orthodox in Jerusalem is attested at least from the 13th century. But during the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the Ethiopian Orthodox community knew a great revival: the number of Ethiopians increased, buildings dedicated to them were bought or erected. Among others, historians like Littmann, Cerulli, Pétridis, Meinardus, Makonnen Zäwde or Pedersen have proposed valuable studies about the Ethiopian community in Jerusalem, especially Kirsten Pedersen who for the first time proposed a very clear and precise history of this community during the 19th and 20th century. But if the outline of the history of the community is known, there is a great lack concerning its involvement in Jerusalem city life during that period. Besides, the characteristics of the archives of the community are basically not known: only few documents had been accessible to historians and even Kirsten Pedersen, herself member of this community had a restricted access to these documents.

It is clear that during this period the community should have produced many documents. In fact, the main idea leading Open Jerusalem research is that the archives of the community should provide documents which permit to understand the involvement of the community in the daily life of Jerusalem at that period and its relationship with the local municipality and the other communities established in the town.

After a meeting with OJ director Vincent Lemire and me, the Ethiopian Orthodox community in Jerusalem was enthusiastic about the project and his Holiness abunä Matthias, Patriarch of Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Addis Ababa, and his Grace abunä Enbakom, Archbishop of Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Holy Land, gave us the access to the archives of the community in Jerusalem.
The study of these archives has just started. For the moment, documents found in the archives are administrative and financial documents, such as payment receipts, cheques, bank documents, financial reports, letters and correspondences concerning daily problems of the community, registers, etc. As a whole, these documents permit to open a window to the daily life of the community, and to understand all the problems and opportunities for a religious community established abroad, concerning installation, supplies, access to public services, administration or worship.
Here are some examples among the documents collected:

– Receipts and payment document are witness of Ethiopian involvement in local network:

Document in French, Ethiopians using middle men from Jerusalem for searching houses to rent, here Pascal Seraphin in 1913.
Document in French, Ethiopians using middle men from Jerusalem for searching houses to rent, here Pascal Seraphin in 1913.
Picture 3-Payment document for Russian Community 1914
Payment made by Ethiopian community to Russian community in 1914 for using a machine (“pompe à eau”).

– Receipts and payment documents to the municipality:

Payment dated to 1934 for cleaning the cesspit of Ethiopian building.
Payment dated to 1934 for cleaning the cesspit of Ethiopian building.

We can observe that Ethiopians had different interlocutors, according to the needs and opportunities. Interesting enough, each interlocutor supposed the use of a specific language, for example with the British municipality in English, with Russian community in French, local merchants in different languages.
Worship activities posed also problem and documents bring to light the role of the municipality to solve the problems and at first the problem of the usage of the Holy Sepulcher.

Also some documents bring to light ownership problems of the community. The problem of the Dar Es Sultan monastery is much known: Ethiopians during that period claimed the ownership over this monastery located at the roof of St. Helena chapel, in the Holy Sepulcher. This claim was contested by Coptic community (and it is still today the case). This case is known especially thanks to the work of Cerulli, Pétridis and Pedersen, and some documents concerning this case were published by abunä Philippos, first Ethiopian bishop of Jerusalem.
No spectacular documents concerning especially this case came out from our investigation in Jerusalem for the moment. But a very interesting book could be identified.

Picture 5-Wäldä Mädhen dairy 1891
A manuscript, in paper, written in 1883 E.C. (1890-1891 AD) by an Ethiopian monk called Wäldä Mädhen could be found. In his manuscript, Wäldä Mädhen describes the daily life of Ethiopians in Dar Es-Sultan at that time, their difficulties and their relations with other communities. Makonnen Zäwde could describe it shortly at the beginning of 1970s but Kirsten Pedersen could not have access to this book. Analysis and study of that book is in progress, in addition with the study of the known text called “History of Der Sultan”,
Picture 6-History of Der Sultan
An Amharic text dated to the beginning of the 20th century and preserved in a large manuscript in paper (Ms. JE692E) containing also the Kebrä Nägäst.

Maybe less known, documents present the case where Ethiopian community was the owner of houses rented to institutions or individuals. These documents are crucial to understand how the community built and managed its properties in the Holy Land.

Administrating worship place in Jerusalem have supposed a great flexibility, in using a specific language with specific interlocutors, in establishing relations with different middle men involved in local social network, in using specific network of merchants for supplies, and in establishing itself in Jerusalem scene. Thanks to full collaboration of Ethiopian Orthodox authorities, the ongoing study of Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem will open a great window on daily life of the Ethiopian Orthodox community in Jerusalem between 1840 and 1940.

CFEE Seminar: Ethiopia in Open Jerusalem

Photo 6 Consulate 1

Centre français des études éthiopiennes (CFEE) Monthly Seminar

on Medieval and Post-Medieval History of Ethiopia,

2nd year (2014-2015)

7ème séance / 7th session : Ethiopia in Open Jerusalem ERC-Project: Transnational Issues of Ongoing Researches and Inquiries, par / by Vincent Lemire (UPEM-ACP/Open Jerusalem Project Director) & Dr. Stéphane Ancel (IMAF/Open Jerusalem Project Member)

Mercredi 13 mai 2015, 14h-17h, Bibliothèque d’études éthiopiennes Berhanou Abebe (CFEE) / Wednesday 13th May 2015, 2-5 PM, Berhanou Abebe Library of Ethiopian Studies (CFEE).

Ethiopia in Open Jerusalem ERC-Project: Transnational Issues of Ongoing Researches and Inquiries

Even if the tie between Jerusalem and Ethiopia is ancient, the Ethiopian community is usually not included in historical works concerning Jerusalem. “Open Jerusalem” project and its members are, on the contrary persuaded of the absolute need to include Ethiopia and Ethiopians in Jerusalem history. The Open Jerusalem project (full title: “Opening Jerusalem Archives: for a shared and connected history of citadinité in the Holy City-1840-1940”) aims at studying the urban society of Jerusalem from 1840 to 1940. Supported and funded by the European Union (EU), through the European Council of Research (ERC), this project focuses on local administrative archives and on all demographic segments of the Holy City’s population from 1840 to 1940. Presented by Dr. Vincent Lemire, director of the project and specialist of Jerusalem contemporary history, and by Dr. Stéphane Ancel, specialist of Ethiopian contemporary history, this paper aims at discussing the main issues of the project, specially the transnational issues about researches and inquiries of documents concerning Ethiopian community in Jerusalem.

Photo: Monastery of Däbrä Gännät Kidanä Mehrät, Jerusalem (S. Ancel)

First Steps: Ethiopian Archives in Jerusalem (S. Ancel)

by Stéphane Ancel

Between the 8th and the 18th of February 2015, Open Jerusalem team member Stéphane Ancel visited members of the Ethiopian Orthodox community in Jerusalem. His initiative aimed at establishing contact between the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Open Jerusalem Project and at evaluating possibilities for studying Ethiopian Orthodox documents in Jerusalem.

Historical sources attest the very early presence of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Jerusalem. However the Ethiopian Orthodox community has known a great revival during the 19th and 20th century. Several sites in the town bear witness to Ethiopian Orthodox activities:

– the famous monastery Dar as-Sultan, located on the roof of Helena’s chapel, and its two associated chapels dedicated to Michael and to the Four Living Creatures, which are served by Ethiopian monks.

Photo 1 Dar AsSultan

– the so-called Archbishop’s residence: located in the Old City (Ethiopian Monastery Street, near the 8th Station of the Via Dolorosa), this house was given to the Ethiopians in 1876 but used as such only from 1891. It accommodates today the Ethiopian Orthodox Church administration and a chapel dedicated to St. Phillip.

Photo 2 Residence 1Photo 3 Residence 2

– The monastery of Däbrä Gännät Kidanä Mehrät, located in West Jerusalem, Ethiopia Street, was commissioned by King of Kings Yohannes IV (1872-1889) but was finished in 1896 by Menilek II (1889-1913).

Photo 4 Debre Gannat 1Photo 5 Debre Gannat 2

– A large building in Hanivim Street, commissioned by Empress Zäwditu in 1928 was used for Ethiopian consulate administration and also for accommodating Ethiopians who worked and settled in Jerusalem.

Photo 6 Consulate 1Photo 7 Consulate 2

– Some buildings are not  occupied by Ethiopians anymore but still bear witness to the important Ethiopian Orthodox activities during the 20th century. A house commissioned by Queen Taytu (wife of Menilek II) in 1903, located at the crossroad of Heleni Mamalka and Shivtei Israel streets is now occupied by the Israel Broadcasting Authority. Some other houses built or bought by Ethiopians at the beginning of the 20th century and formally given to the Ethiopian monastic community, are still visible in the Ethiopian compound, even if they are nowadays occupied  by other institutions.

Stéphane Ancel visited these sites, met elders of the community and obtained information concerning the community, its organization and its history. He was also warmly received by His Grace Abune Enbaqom, Ethiopian archbishop in the Holy Land, and other officials of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Jerusalem to whom he presented the aims and issues of Open Jerusalem Project. His Grace Archbishop Abune Enbaqom and all members of the Ethiopian Orthodox community have welcomed the Open Jerusalem project initiative. However, they legitimately asked the project to officially demand the authorization to the Patriarchate of Addis Ababa to analyze the documents preserved in the archives of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the Holy Land. For that purpose, Vincent Lemire, director of the project and Julien Loiseau, director of the French Research Centre in Jerusalem, officially contacted the headquarter of Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate in Addis Abeba. This is the beginning of the process… to be followed….

Stéphane Ancel

stephane

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Centre d’études en sciences sociales du religieux (CéSoR), Paris

Among his publications:

  • Looking for the Daily Life of Orthodox Ethiopians in Jerusalem (1840-1940): Breaking Down Barriers Between Archives for Revealing Ethiopian Social Networks in Jerusalem”, Proceedings of Open Jerusalem International Symposium “Revealing Ordinary Jerusalem (1840-1940), New Archives and Perspectives on Urban Citizenship and Global Entanglements” (ERC, Forth), Institute for Mediterranean Studies, Rethymno, Greece, May 2016, forthcoming
  • Across the Archives: New Sources about the Ethiopian Christian Community in Jerusalem (1840-1940)”, (with Vincent Lemire), Jerusalem Quarterly, forthcoming
  • Travelling Books: Changes of Ownership and Location in Ethiopian Manuscript Culture”, in Giovanni Ciotti and Hang Lin (eds.), Tracing Manuscript in Time and Space through Paratexts, Studies in Manuscript Cultures, De Gruyter, Berlin-München-Boston: 269-299, 2016 URL
  • «L´Église orthodoxe d´Éthiopie et la révolution: assurer sa survie par la réforme (1974-1991)», in Cahiers d´Études Africaines, vol. 220, Paris, 2015, 687-710

Academic webpage

Read his texts:

Vincent Lemire

vincent

Historian, University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, Director of Open Jerusalem

Among his publications:

Academic webpage

Read his text:

«Ouvrir les archives d’une ville fermée?», «Ouvrir les archives», 13-14 April 2015