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Pole to Pole

Day 83: Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 
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Church in Addis Ababa.
Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe have to remove our shoes before going inside the church, which is arranged in a series of concentric circles running outwards from the holy of holies at the core of the building. There seem to be separate sections for men and women. One arcade is full of the elders of the congregation - white-robed men holding sticks with a crosspiece that I notice is often of ornately worked silver. The colours proliferate as you go further in, in fact the centre resembles a fabric warehouse. Elaborate use is made of curtains and carpets and fringes and pelmets, and the priests themselves wear highly decorative robes and capes, often in shimmering brocade. The walls where they are not covered with cloths and rugs have painted scenes; some show Christ's miracles, others the Virgin Mary, and one has St George plunging his spear into the dragon's mouth. It's reminiscent of the services in Cyprus and Leningrad and again indicates Ethiopia's links with the North and East rather than the rest of Africa.

Ceremonial is very important, as are props. A Bible, said to be 300 years old, with pages of skin, not paper, is paraded around in a gold frame. Worshippers touch it with their forehead and then kiss it, and when it is read it is in the ancient language of Ge'ez, which is not commonly understood outside the priesthood.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 83
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Addis Ababa
  • Book page no: 183

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