Envoys of a Human God

The Jesuit Mission to Christian Ethiopia, 1557-1632


In Envoys of A Human God Andreu Martínez offers a comprehensive study of the religious mission led by the Society of Jesus in Christian Ethiopia. The mission to Ethiopia was one of the most challenging undertakings carried out by the Catholic Church in early modern times.
The book examines the period of early Portuguese contacts with the Ethiopian monarchy, the mission’s main developments and its aftermath, with the expulsion of the Jesuit missionaries. The study profits from both an intense reading of the historical record and the fruits of recent archaeological research. Long-held historiographical assumptions are challenged and the importance of cultural and socio-political factors in the attraction and ultimate estrangement between European Catholics and Ethiopian Christians is highlighted.

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Andreu Martínez d’Alòs-Moner, Ph.D. (2009), European University Institute (Florence) is Associated Professor at Gondar University, Ethiopia. He worked at the University of Hamburg for the Encyclopaedia Aethiopica project and has published extensively on cultural encounters between Europe, India, and Africa.
“This is the first comprehensive English-language account of the best-documented case of early modern missionarism in sub-Saharan Africa: the Jesuit mission to Ethiopia. Whereas in recent decades the topic has received the attention of many scholars, none of the extant accounts [...] can be compared in terms of comprehensiveness and depth of analysis to Martínez’s. […] The volume is bound to become required reading for specialists of the Horn, of Africa’s missionary history, and of the Society of Jesus. Furthermore, because of the original framing of the mission in the larger world of the society’s endeavors in Asia and the rise and demise of the Estado da India, the volume will attract considerable interest among Indian Ocean specialists. Lastly, the volume’s encyclopedic character, the generous bibliography, its noteworthy appendixes dedicated to the genealogy of the Ethiopian royal house, and the demographics of the Jesuits in Ethiopia and their intellectual production are likely to make it an appealing reference work for scholars in other fields.”
Matteo Salvadore, Gulf University for Science and Technology. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 69, No. 2 (Summer 2016), pp. 749-750.

“The phenomenon [of the Jesuit mission to Ethiopia] has attracted a great many studies, but none have been so meticulously researched as Envoys of a Human God by Andreu Martínez d’ Alòs-Moner. For the first time we have a thorough reconstruction not only of the historical, political, and religious background of the mission, but of every detail of the daily lives of the missionaries, their policy, and the various attempts to transform the local culture undertaken by the indefatigable members of the Society of Jesus. […] Envoys of a Human God is a fascinating study accompanied by excellent maps and a useful index. The second volume of Brill’s new series of Jesuit Studies, nowhere does it fall short of the high standard set by the first.”
Alastair Hamilton, The Warburg Institute, London. In: Church History and Religious Culture, Vol. 95, No. 4 (2015), pp. 534-537.

“Andreu Martínez d'Alòs-Moner has written a superb and comprehensive study of the origin, rise and fall of the Jesuit mission in Ethiopia. This great achievement will be the standard work on this venture for many years to come. Thoroughly researched and well structured, the book presents the vast material in a consistently interesting narrative, which is complemented by five appendices, an extensive bibliography and a detailed index.”
Jan Loop, The University of Kent. In: The Heythrop Journal, Vol. 58, No. 3 (May 2017), pp. 459-461.

“Martínez d’Alòs-Moner’s excellent book provides fertile soil for future research in the Society of Jesus missionary studies, representing as it does an attempt to move the discipline forward and attest to the new vitality of multidisciplinary research in the field. […] The result is a new interpretation that will help to redefine Jesuit missionary studies by guiding the research toward issues of connections and collaboration in diverse geo-cultural areas. Martínez d’Alòs-Moner’s sophisticated reading shows a rich insight into the Ethiopian responses to European colonialism and the Jesuit global mission.”
Raúl Marrero-Fente, University of Minnesota. In: Itinerario, Vol. 40, No. 3 (2016), pp. 549-586.

Envoys of a Human God is a welcome addition to the literature on Ethiopia and the Society of Jesus. Martínez d’Alòs-Moner takes stock of the most important works on this topic and skillfully assays the events leading up to the expulsion and its immediate aftermath. Fittingly, the last chapter, “Exile and Memory,” raises new questions and lines of research that have been prompted by this compelling monograph.”
Leonardo Cohen, University of Haifa. In: Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu, Vol. 86, No. 171 (2017), pp. 228-230.

“a valuable contribution to Ethiopian studies.”
Bairu Tafla, University of Hamburg. In: Aethiopica, Vol. 19 (2016), pp. 286-288.
List of Figures, Maps, Plates and Tables
List of Abbreviations
Glossary of Terms

PART 1 From Diu to Fǝremona
1 The Prester John’s New Clothes
The Courting of the nǝguś
Dom João III: Religious Reform as Expansion
The Preste’s New Clothes

2 From Santiago to St. Paul
Evangelizing the Preste
Santiago’s Last Call
Paul’s Momentum

3 Native Networks
The Carreira to the Preste
Diu and the Banyans
Massawa, Fǝremona and the Ethio-Portuguese

PART 2 From Fǝremona to Gorgora
4 Mission Metrics
1555–1603: Difficult Beginnings
1603–1623: Setting up a Local Missionary Network
1623–1632: The Catholic Patriarchate and the Expansion of the Network

5 Mission Politics
The Redução of Christian Ethiopia
Observation, Deconstruction, and Replacement of Ethiopian
Beyond Absolutism

6 Mission Culture
The Presentation of Self in Missionary Life
A Theology of the Visible
Spaces of Faith, Spaces of Power
Mission Support

PART 3 From Gorgora to Goa
7 Yäṭǝnt
Utopian Ethiopia
The Mission of the Qwälläfä and Chalcedonians
From Dissent to Open Resistance

8 Exile and Memory
The Mission after the Jesuits
Longing for Ethiopia
A Mission between Oblivion and Curiosity

9 Conclusions

Appendix 1 Leading Political Figures in the Red Sea, India, and Europe, ca. 1600–1635
Appendix 2 National and Provincial Rulers in Christian Ethiopia, 1603–1636
Appendix 3 Jesuit Missionaries in Ethiopia, 1555–1632
Appendix 4 Intellectual Production during the Mission, 1611–1632
Appendix 5 Genealogical Chart of the Extended Ethiopian Royal Family (ca. 1550–1640)

Sources and bibliography

All interested in the history of the European expansion, the history of the Society of Jesus and religious missions and the cross-cultural exchanges on the eve of globalisation.
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