The Ark of the Covenant and Aksum

A focus of longstanding attention by Christians, a topic of Hollywood movies as well as countless books, TV programs, internet blogs and a chapel in Aksum: all of these have one thing in common: the Ark of the Covenant.

It is still a strongly held belief that King Menelik I: , son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, brought the Ark from Jerusalem to Ethiopia. The Ark allegedly spent the next 600 years on the island of Tana Cherqos in Lake Tana. Eventually it was moved to Aksum, where it is said to reside in a small chapel, near Maryam Seyon, the main cathedral for all Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.

A priest acts as caretaker. The closest the faithful get to seeing the Ark is in the ceremonies during which their church’s tabot – drawer or box said to contain copies of the Ten Commandments – is brought out. However, even then, it is difficult to discern any details, as these tabots are usually wrapped in richly embroidered cloth. Even the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church does not get to see the Ark in Aksum. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for very few people indeed.