The woman who claims to have risen from the dead

After a period of relative stability in the fifteenth century, a sequence of events shook the Ethiopian kingdom to its foundations, bringing it to the brink of collapse. First, came an invasion from the neighboring Muslim Sultanate of Adal (a Muslim state located in the Horn of Africa, c. 1415 to 1577) led by a general called Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi whose army pillaged and destroyed numerous churches and Christian works of art across the country between 1529 and 1543.

By the turn of the fifteenth century other manuscripts, especially Psalters (volumes containing the Book of Psalms, often with other devotional material), are frequently illustrated and crosses are often embellished with depictions of saints and of the Virgin and Child (above). The earliest surviving Ethiopian icons also date from this century (above and below). Written sources suggest that the Ethiopian Emperor Zar’a Ya’eqob encouraged the use of panel paintings in church rituals. While other artistic mediums used during the fifteenth century are largely indebted to the art of the fourteenth century, the icons feature new iconographic motifs and the lines are more elegant and sinuous and the figures have less rigid poses.

The Solomonics were as active as patrons of the arts as their predecessors, and endowed churches with hundreds of precious gifts. Works of art were also be donated to ecclesiastic centers by nobles and clergymen, as well as by individuals known from dedicatory inscriptions on the work they commissioned. The rock-cut church of  a few kilometers south-east of Lalibela, features an almost complete set of murals depicting saints, angels, and motifs inspired by the New Testament. The church also features a portrait of Yekunno Amlak. Numerous illuminated manuscripts, particularly  were created between the late thirteenth and early fifteenth centuries. A few dozen feature not just Canon Tables (indexes indicating which passages are shared in which Gospels.) and portraits of the four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), as in the earlier Garima Gospels, but also scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

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