Fragility and Resilience: Church History and Myth in Nineteenth-Century Ethiopia
Keywords:Martula Maryam, invention of tradition, monastic competition, origin myth, hagiography, Goǧǧam, Queen Ǝleni, Abrǝha and Aṣbǝḥa, foundation myth, Geez
The growth of a myth of ancient origins pertaining to the church and monastery of Märṭulä Maryam and the exploration of its content and context form the central focus of this study. Material related to the church’s apparent ancient origin provides appropriate data through which to illustrate at once the themes of historical fragility and resilience. Märṭulä Maryam consolidated its mythical history by suppressing the memory of its actual founder, thus altering the tradition of the church itself. This study will demonstrate that efforts to completely erase the memory of Märṭulä Maryam’s founder and its original history were wholly in vain. Such acts of suppression inevitably leave indelible traces of the true past, not to mention the fact that its actual history is well secured within the records of other Ethiopian churches, as well as in those of Märṭulä Maryam itself.
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