The Monk on the Roof

The Story of an Ethiopian Manuscript Found in Jerusalem (1904)


Around 1900 the small Ethiopian community in Jerusalem found itself in a desperate struggle with the Copts over the Dayr al-Sultan monastery located on the roof of the Holy Sepulchre. Based on a profoundly researched, impassioned and multifaceted exploration of a forgotten manuscript, this book abandons the standard majority discourse and approaches the history of Jerusalem through the lens of a community typically considered marginal. It illuminates the political, religious and diplomatic affairs that exercised the city, and guides the reader on a fascinating journey from the Ethiopian highlands to the Holy Sepulchre, passing through the Ottoman palaces in Istanbul.

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Stéphane Ancel, Ph.D. (2006, Paris), is a researcher at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) in Paris. He is a specialist of the contemporary history of Ethiopia. He has published many articles and translations related to the history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Magdalena Krzyżanowska, Ph.D. (2020, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań), is a researcher at Hiob Ludolf Centre for Eritrean and Ethiopian Studies, Universität Hamburg. She is a linguist specializing in the Amharic language. She has also published on topics related to Ethiopic manuscript culture and Amharic literature.
Vincent Lemire, Ph.D. (2006, Paris), is an associate professor of contemporary history at the University of Paris-Est/Gustave Eiffel, and the current director of the Centre de recherche français à Jérusalem (CRFJ). He studies contemporary Jerusalem and the Middle Eastern history. He is the author of many monographs, including Jerusalem 1900: The Holy City in the Age of Possibilities (University of Chicago Press, 2017).
Acknowledgments for the English Edition
List of Figures
Note on Transliteration and Dates

Introduction: A Historical Emergency: The Paradoxical Posterity of a Failed Manuscript
 1 A Sidestep
 2 Three Readings
 3 Microcosm, Macrocosm

1 Dayr al-Sultan: A Rooftop Monastery
 1 A Monastery on a Roof
 2 One Place, Two Memories
 3 Histories and Research about the Monastery
 4 The Limits of Previous Studies

2 An Enigmatic Unpublished Manuscript
 1 The Archives of the Ethiopian Orthodox Community
 2 An Unpublished Manuscript
 3 A Cryptic Text

3 The Archaeology of a Militant Propaganda Text
 1 A Text Based on Another Dated 1893
 2 Sources: The Backbone of the Text
 3 Adaptations, Additions and Interpretations
 4 A Linguistically Challenged and Challenging Text

4 Conflicts and Protections: 1850–1903
 1 Dayr al-Sultan: An Unending Local Conflict
 2 A Community with No Legal Autonomy
 3 Having Their Voices Heard in Istanbul

5 With Memory as His Only Weapon
 1 A New Stage in the Ethiopian Claims
 2 Making up for the Absence of Legal Documentation
 3 Justifying the Absence of Legal Documentation
 4 A Respond to the Coptic Arguments

6 The Reflection of an Ethiopia in Transformation
 1 A Dearth of Written Ethiopian Sources
 2 No Ethiopian Kings Concerned about Jerusalem?
 3 A New Interest for Jerusalem
 4 Differentiating Ethiopians from Copts
 5 Presenting the Community as Homogeneous

7 The Ethiopians in a Global City
 1 Rediscovering Jerusalem
 2 Imperial Ethiopia
 3 The Opening of an Ottoman City
 4 Modernization of Local Administration
 5 Protection and Involvement in Conflict over the Holy Sites
 6 Acting and Evolving Depending on Others …
 7 … And Yet Declaring Oneself Isolated from Others

Conclusion: The Keys to Power: The Ethiopians at the Doors of the Sanctuary

Amharic Text and English Translation of Walda Madhen

Appendix 1: German Version of the Ethiopian Anonymous Text of 1893
Appendix 2: Letter Written by Samuel Gobat to James Howard Harris, Earl of Malmesbury, June 29, 1852
Appendix 3: Account of Giovanni Battista Albengo, 1893
Appendix 4: Short Chronology
Sources and Bibliography
Specialists and non-specialists (students and practitioners) interested in Middle Eastern studies, in the history of Jerusalem, and in Ethiopian and African history.
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