The Archaeology of the Jesuit Missions in Ethiopia (1557–1632)


One of the earliest and most ambitious projects carried out by the Society of Jesus was the mission to the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia, which ran from 1557 to 1632. In about 1621, crucial figures in the Ethiopian Solomonid monarchy, including King Susenyos, were converted to Catholicism and up to 1632 imposing missionary churches, residences, and royal structures were built. This book studies for the first time in a comprehensive manner the missionary architecture built by the joint work of Jesuit padres, Ethiopian and Indian masons, and royal Ethiopian patrons. The work gives ample archaeological, architectonic, and historical descriptions of the ten extant sites known to date and includes hypotheses on hitherto unexplored or lesser known structures.

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Víctor M. Fernández, PhD (1983), Universidad Complutense de Madrid, is professor of archaeology at that university. He has conducted excavations in Sudan and Ethiopia since 1978 and published monographs and articles on those areas, including The Blue Nile Project (2003).

Jorge de Torres, PhD (2012), Universidad Complutense de Madrid, is research cataloguer at the British Museum, London. He has conducted excavations and published about the archaeology of Spain, Morocco, Ethiopia, Somaliland, and Mozambique.

Andreu Martínez d’Alòs-Moner, PhD (2008), European University Institute, Florence, is associate professor at the University of Gondär, Ethiopia. He was editor of the Encyclopaedia Aethiopica at the University of Hamburg and has published Envoys of a Human God: The Jesuit Mission to Christian Ethiopia, 1557–1632 (Brill, 2015).

Carlos Cañete, PhD (2009), Universidad de Málaga, is researcher at the Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales (CSIC, Madrid). He has conducted field-work in Spain, Morocco, and Ethiopia. He is a historian specializing in the history of representations of African and Mediterranean cultures.

“This is a first-rate and comprehensive study, richly illustrated and (as one would expect with Brill) well presented […]. It sets the standard for historical archaeological work in eastern Africa and will hopefully encourage other archaeologists, working with Ethiopian heritage professionals, scholars and communities, to engage with some of the more recent sites, all places that have much to reveal about the complex and rich history of imperial Ethiopia and its engagement with the outside world over the last six hundred or so years.”
Niall Finneran, University of Winchester. In: Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa, Vol. 53, No. 1 (2018), pp. 123–125.

A “monumental volume”. […] “It is of the highest quality and will reward any and all who consult it.”
Steven Kaplan, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In: The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 70, No. 1 (January 2019), pp. 191–192.

“This substantial, well-produced book has raised the state of knowledge of this field, as well as our understanding of historical archaeology as applied to an African context, to a whole new level. […] It should remain a major reference work for archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians for many years to come.”
Tania Tribe, SOAS University of London. In: Journal of Early Modern History, Vol. 24, N. 3 (2020), pp. 293–295.

List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Contributors

1 Introduction: The Fieldwork and the Team

Víctor M. Fernández

2 The Infrastructure of the Mission: Convents, Palaces, and Temples
Andreu Martínez d’Alòs-Moner
2.1 The Jesuit Mission: From Oviedo to Mendes
2.2 Pedro Páez: The Experimental Phase, 1614–21
2.3 João Martins and the Indian Builders: The Patriarchal Phase, 1626–32
2.4 The Mughal Hypothesis

3 The Mission Sites
Víctor M. Fernández, Jorge de Torres, Carlos Cañete, and Andreu Martínez d’Alòs-Moner
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Fǝremona
3.2.1 Introduction and Historical Data
3.2.2 The Ruins
3.3 The Royal-Missionary Complex of Azäzo-Gännätä Iyäsus
3.3.1 Introduction
3.3.2 The Jesuit Church
3.3.3 The Fortified Enclosure
3.3.4 The Palace-Residence
3.3.5 The Hydraulic Systems
3.3.6 Gännätä Iyäsus after the Jesuits’ Departure
3.3.7 The Material Culture
3.4 Gorgora, the “Phoenix of Ethiopia”
3.4.1 Gorgora in the History of the Jesuit Mission
3.4.2 Locating the Different “Gorgoras”
3.4.3 The Remains of Gorgora Nova
3.4.4 The Church of Gorgora Iyäsus
3.4.5 The Residence
3.4.6 The Material Culture
3.4.7 An Oral History about Gorgora Nova
3.5 Dänqäz
3.5.1 Introduction and Historical Data
3.5.2 The Palace
3.5.3 The Cistern
3.5.4 The Church
3.6 Däbsan
3.6.1 Introduction and Historical Data
3.6.2 The Ruins
3.7 Särka
3.7.1 Introduction and Historical Data
3.7.2 The Church of Virgin Mary
3.7.3 The Fortified Compound
3.7.4 The Main Building or “Palace”
3.7.5 The Subterranean Room or “Prison”
3.8 Ǝnnäbǝse—Märṭulä Maryam
3.8.1 Introduction and Historical Data
3.8.2 The Ruins
3.9 Abba Gǝš Fasil (Lǝǧǧä Nǝguś?)
3.9.1 The Historical Data
3.9.2 The Ruins
3.10 Qwälläla
3.10.1 The Historical Data
3.10.2 The Ruins
3.11 Hadaša
3.12 The “Lost” Missions
3.12.1 Tanḵa
3.12.2 Näfaša
3.12.3 Ankaša
3.12.4 Atḵäna
3.12.5 Märäba
3.12.6 Gäbärma
3.12.7 Dǝbarwa
3.12.8 Adegada

4 The Politics of Domination in Missionary and Royal Architecture
Carlos Cañete and Jorge de Torres
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Main Traits and Exceptions
4.3 Particular Interests, Global Consequences
4.4 The Material Accommodation of Power
4.5 The Regulation of Manners
4.6 From Materiality to Society

5 Conclusions
Victor M. Fernández
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Before the Mission
5.3 Before the Chunambo
5.4 After the Chunambo
5.5 After the Mission: The Origins of Gondärine Architecture
5.6 After the Mission: The “Closure” and Transformation of Jesuit
5.7 A Troubled Legacy
5.8 Conclusions

1 The Topography of the Mission Sites
Eduardo Martín Agúndez and Víctor del Arco Sanz
2 Three-Dimensional Laser-Scanner Reconstructions
Christian Dietz and Gianluca Catanzariti
3 3D Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) Survey at the Azäzo—Gännätä Iyäsus Jesuit Mission
Gianluca Catanzariti and Christian Dietz
4 Technical Report on the Construction Materials, State of Conservation, and Restoration Proposals
Jorge A. Durán
5 Public Archaeology in Azäzo
Jaime Almansa
Manuscript Sources
Printed Sources
Secondary Literature
All interested in the history of the Jesuit order and its architectonic achievements, the European expansion and the history of the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia.
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