Sunday, May 13, 2007

Beyond The Frame: Narga Selassie

Traveling by boat from Gondar to Bahir Dar after a rather stormy passage, I stopped at Dek Island to explore Narga Selassie, one of the most important monasteries in northern Ethiopia. The island is the middle of Lake Tana, the great body of water in the centre of the Ethiopian plateau. Founded in 1748, Narga Selassie is one of the many monasteries on the lake's islands. The monasteries are the expression of a Ethiopian Christian identity and civilization.

This ancient Ethiopian silver cross held high by a hermit priest was photographed at the gate of the monastery. The monastery church of Narga Selassie is on Dek Island There is no country in the world that matches Ethiopia in the number of forms and types of its crosses. Ever since Ethiopia's conversion to Christianity, the cross has appeared almost universally, not only as a liturgical instrument in churches and monasteries, but also in common devotion and in daily life. The original Ethiopian Crosses are derived from the Egyptian Ankh and have intricate interwoven and crossed designs worn primarily by African Christians.

Most of the hermit priests live on these monastery islands all their lives, and survive by cultivating sorghum, and on donations given by tourists infrequently stopping to admire the Narga Sellasie concentric church.

This photograph was published full page length by Outdoor Photography magazine to feature its Travel section

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