History

Ras Makonnen’s Vacant Mausoleum

  The sarcophagus containing the mortal remains of the beloved Ras Makonnen was plated within the precincts of the little church of St. Mikael, a trifle lower down the hill than the spot where the Mausoleum now stands. This imposing memorial was completed in 1932, but it is said the priests of St. Mikael were unwilling to part with the relics of the Ras which had remained in their keeping 26 years.

  During the Italian usurpation the Mausoleum suffered some minor damage, as may be seen from the photo graph published in the book of Scarin, the Fastis official.

  Soon after the Liberation it was restored, and crowne by a silver-dome.

  It is an imposing cruciform edifice of warm goldei brown stone, flanked on either side by a seated lie sculptured from the same stone.

  It is approached from the road at the foot of the hill by a long avenue of sombre firs and poinseltia bushes, their heads of long, drooping, deep red bracts, resembling giant chrysanthemum, glowing with brilliant intensity in contrast to the dark trees.

  One emerges from the deep shade of the avenue to a long flight of stone steps leading to the large rectangular walled enclosure of the lofty church which stands in the blaze of the sun.

  From its precincts one can gaze down-hill between the magnificent great trees growing on the slope, and thence to the old city and the mountains beyond.

  Descending the grass-covered hillside, one comes to the lovely little white church of St. Mikael, raised on its high plinth and surrounded by fields of grass with flowers springing up almost wild. The church is square in plan, with a small apse in the centre of each wall. The corners of the building itself and the small columns and arches enclosing the doors and windows are of yellow stone, the corner-stones rusticated, the door and window arches

  carved with ornament. The lower roof, supported by slender wooden pillars, extends to cast its protecting shade over the ambulatory curving outward over the apse in each of the four sides. The clear-storey, also square in plan, lights the Makdas by small round win­dows, three in each of the four sides, the four slopes of the upper roof rise to a point in the centre and support the customary octagonal ornament bearing the delicate eight-pointed cross.

  Id a narrow cell adjacent to the church, Ras Makon­nen is interred. A priest spends each night there ; his slender mattress, where he may rest at intervals during his nights of prayer, lay on the bare stone floor awaiting him.

  Fasting and prayer still greatly characterise the Ethiopian Church, as when the Portuguese Chaplain, Alvarez was awed by its austerity in the early 16th century.

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