Home To The Ark of the Covenant

Aksum Attractions

Aksum Oblisks

Aksum or Axum is widely identified by the famous obelisks, or monolithic stelae . In ancient times, seven of these monoliths of granite stood together; but the biggest, the largest monolith ever made anywhere in the world - measuring over thirty-three metres (108 feet) and weighing about 500 tons - fell at some remote period in the past and now lies smashed on the ground to the right of the standing stelae. The second-largest stelae, about twenty-four metres (79 feet) high, also fell and was stolen during the Fascist Italian occupation on the personal orders of the dictator Mussolini. After 68 years It finally returned to Ethiopia and erected at its original place. The third-largest stelae, measuring twenty-three metres (75 feet), still stands in Axum..

In addition to the stelae in this part of Axum, the field also bears several tombs. Grave robbers plundered the royal spoils of the tombs centuries before archaeologists had the opportunity to preserve them.

Tomb of the False Door

located at the west end of the stelae Park, this subterranean funerary complex is named after the false door carved over the access stairway in a style very similar to that of steles .it was Discovered in 1972 and is thought to date around the 4th century AD. Complex in structure, its stone blocks are also larger and more finely dressed than those found in some other tombs. Comprising an antechamber and inner chamber, it’s surrounded on three sides by a passage. The tomb was robbed in the past of all the precious goods it presumably contained.

Aksum Mausoleum

The so-called mausoleum has a monumental portal (hewn from a single slab of granite) marking the tomb’s entrance and is carved with the stelae’s curious false-door motifs. The portal leads into a passageway with 10 chambers. In total the tomb covers some 240 sq metres.

Tomb of the Brick Arches

Dating from the end of the 3rd century, this tomb is remarkably well preserved and contains four rock-cut chambers, subdivided by a series of brick arches built with lime mortar. These arches are the same as those that had been in the mausoleum before the grave robbers damaged it.

The tomb was first excavated by archaeologists in 1974, and though tomb robbers had beaten them to it by centuries, they still discovered fragments of gold jewelry, beads, bronze objects, weapons and glass objects. Nobody knows who was buried here, but archaeologists surmise that the tomb contained the bodies of an elderly woman, a man and one other person and that the treasures found within indicate that they were people of high standing

The tomb remains closed because archaeologists think further excavation is warranted, but you can clearly see one of the arches through the gate.

Tomb of Nefas Mawcha

The megalithic Tomb of Nefas Mawcha consists of a large rectangular central chamber surrounded on three sides by a passage. The tomb is unusual for its large size, the sophistication of the structure and the size of the stones used for its construction making it, the largest megalithic tomb on Earth.The capstone of this tomb is 360 tons heavy and is the second largest stone Aksumites or any early civilization ever used. . The force of the Great Stele crashing into its roof caused the tomb’s spectacular collapse.

Locals believe that under this tomb is a ‘magic machine’, the original implement the Aksumites used to melt stone in order to shape the stelae and tombs. The same type of machine was apparently also used to create some of the rock-hewn churches of Tigray.the locals also belive that .The massive slab roof of the tomb, was dropped by the Devil when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Aksum.

Church of Saint Mary of Zion

There are, in fact, two such churches, one old and one new, both located in a spacious walled compound directly opposite the Park of the Stelae. The older, a rectangular battlemented building, was put up in the early seventeenth century by Emperor Fasilidas; the modern structure was erected nearby by Emperor Haile Selassie, who opened it in the company of England's Queen Elizabeth II in 1965. The older structure, by far the more interesting, is the repository of many royal crowns and other valuables. Unfortunately, it is closed to women, who are, however, allowed to inspect some of these treasures, which are carried to the edge of the church precincts for this purpose. The church courtyard also contains many antiquities, including sculpted stones, which obviously formed part of the earlier church. Visitors may also see the stone thrones on which the monarchs of the past were crowned, as well as other stone chairs reserved for bishops and courtiers.

Ark of the Covenant Chapel

In between the old and new St Mary of Zion churches is a tiny, carefully guarded chapel that houses what most Ethiopians believe is the legendary Ark of the Covenant - a claim connected in Ethiopian tradition to the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon , whose son Menelik I is said to have brought the Ark to Aksum 3,000 years ago and to have founded the Solomonic dynasty, of which Haile Selassie was the last emperor. The Ark cannot be seen by anyone but the High Priest of Axum, an elderly and especially holy monk who is charged with its care and preservation for life. He cannot leave the small yard that surrounds the chapel, and he is expected to name his successor on his deathbed.

Arabtu Ensessa Church

The ‘Four Beasts’ Church, named after the writers of the Biblical Gospels, was rebuilt in the 1950s and is worth a look for the wonderful murals (most modern, but a few old) covering nearly every centimeter of the interior. The saints and angels on the ceiling are particularly delightful, while there's a rather scary representation of the devil.

Abba Pentalewon Church

High above Aksum, on top of a tall, narrow peak, is Abba Pentalewon monastery. Tradition states it was built by Abba Pentalewon, one of the Nine Saints and a man who is said to have prayed nonstop for 40 years, and that this is where King Kaleb retired to after abdicating his throne. The views, the monastery itself and the treasures are all worth the climb

The original church, the foundation of which can still be seen, may date to the 6th century but the attractive ‘old’ church (men only) is from the 1940s. Some centuries-old paintings hang amid the new. Women can enter the new church to see similar but only new paintings.

King Bazen's Tomb

Despite being the crudest of tombs, roughly hewn into solid rock instead of constructed with fine masonry, this place has a slightly magical feel. King Bazen is thought not just to have reigned at Christ’s birth, but to have been Balthazar, and one of the Three Wise Men who followed the star to Bethlehem, to greet the birth of Jesus. He delivered the gift of frankincense. Because papyrus and skins did not survive due to the humidity.

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