• January 24th

Africa’s Oldest and Largest Christian Homeland

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is by far the oldest Christian tradition in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s members enter church barefoot, do not eat pork, fast often and are circumcised, receiving elements both from Christianity and Judaism. Their centuries-old rock churches, such as the one at Lalibela, are considered to be among the world’s man-made wonders – listed under the UNESCO Heritage sites. It’s a country so rich in history that embodies both fantasy and intrigue.

Greek photographer, Lizy Manola brings us to the heart of this very ancient land where it’s faith is very much interwoven in it’s fabric, sharing images from her personal collection as well as those published in her book – Ethiopian Highlands.

As she stated in the book’s preface, Manola visited Ethiopia a few years ago as a tourist, but her experience of its churches and mountains “took my breath away, so I decided to visit not once but seven times more times with my camera,” – enabling her to capture the essence of the nation

“I took the photos without flash and tripod because I had the utmost respect for the places. It was not ideal technically, but emotionally it was perfect.”

“It is a huge country with great beauty. The north and south are very different. Christianity is prevalent in the northwest of the country and Islam in the South. There are also pagans of all races in the South,” she said.

“Their faith is really alive. The Ethiopians have had wretched lives. They have suffered famines, plagues, and wars. Their only ally in all that misery is their faith, which unites them. They are people with great dignity. I saw bright within those people and was deeply moved, even though I am not a particularly religious person. They are a special people.”

Ancient Bible,  Abune Gebre Mikael Church, Tigray, Ethiopia

Sights from Lalibela, Ethiopia

Pilgrim at Christmas celebrations, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Priest reading the bible in the morning mass at Mikael Amba Church, Tigray

Christmas in Lalibela – on the eve of Christmas, pilgrims jammed the Beta Maryam church shoulder to shoulder and thronged the surrounding hills. Priests chant and rattle sistras, palm-size instruments from Old Testament times, and the celebrations continue through the night.

Bahtawi representing the passion of Jesus Christ, Abreha and Atsbeha procession,Tigray

Herders in the Omo valley, Ethiopia

Megan village, Tigray

Abraha and Atsbeha procession, Tigray

Devotees offering blessings outside Tele Haykmanot church, Hawzen village, Tigray

Priest in the Bet Golgotha Church known for its life size carvings of saints on the walls, Lalibela

Girl in Harar


Beta Gyorgis Church, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Beta Gyorgis Church was given the shape of a cross, probably because it was devoted to the swearing of oaths. In Ethiopia, oaths were often  sworn on a miraculous relic, notably a cross or, more often, an altar tablet. For the extreme suffering he endured for the love of Christ, George was rewarded with great powers of intercession

Priest holding a cross, Tigray


For more, see Lizy Manola, Ethiopian Highlands (New York: Assouline, 2014.) 

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