Culture & History Digital Journal, Vol 2, No 2 (2013)

Enlivening the dying ruins: history and archaeology of the Jesuit Missions in Ethiopia, 1557–1632

Víctor M. Fernández
Dpto. Prehistoria, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain


A summary is presented of the recent archaeological research led by the University Complutense of Madrid on the residences and monuments of the Jesuit missions in Ethiopia, most of them built at the end of the Mission period, between 1621 and 1632. The paper examines the known mission sites in turn, concentrating on the most important ones located in the region of Dembya, north of lake Tana. The emphasis has been put on the contrast between the information available from historical sources, mainly from the Jesuits’ writings and letters, and that obtained in the field, concluding that the differences are limited to the natural tendency to embellishment and self-praise by the missionaries. Finally, the conclusions expose the cultural problems that still exist in Ethiopia to treat this “dark” historical period of the country.


Jesuits; Architecture; Archaeology; Historical sources; Post-colonialism; Ethiopia

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