SP013 – History of the Abyssinian Church


Course Information

Professor: Rafal Zarzeczny, SJ rafal.zarzeczny@gmail.com

Schedule: Wed. III-IV, 2nd sem., 1 cr., 1,5 ECTS


The history of the Ethiopian Church dating from the IV century. The Christianity that came from Alexandria rapidly became the religion of the people in the Horn of Africa, a determinating factor for social life. Its intense spirituality, experienced especially in monastic and liturgical life, is always visible in the popular devotions practised in an innate way. Notwithstanding a long period of isolation from European civilization, the Ethiopian Church overcame all the difficulties and divisions, including religious wars and the “Red Terror”. Today, the Church in Ethiopia and Eritrea represent the community of ancient origins and of Eastern character most numerous in all the African continent. The course aims to uncover this extraordinary phenomenon through the significant stages of its history:


  • the Aksumite period;
  • the restoration of the Salomonic Dynasty and the development of monasticism;
  • the stormy events of the XVI-XVII centuries and their ecclesiastical consequences;
  • the changes in the Orthodox Church (Tawahedo) in Ethiopia and Eritrea in the XIX-XX centuries;
  • the history of the Catholic Church from Justin de Jacobis;
  • the current structure of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia and Eritrea;
  • Protestants in the Horn of Africa.


To familiarize the student with the most important moments of the history of the Church in the Horn of Africa.


J. Abbink, A Bibliography on Christianity in Ethiopia, Leiden 2003;


C. Conti Rossini, Storia d’Etiopia, Bergamo 1928 [reprint Milano 2002];


F. Heyer, Die Kirche Äthiopiens. Eine Bestandsaufnahme, Berlin 1971;


K. Stoffregen-Pedersen, Les Éthiopiens, Turnhout 1990;


S. Munro-Hay, Axum. An African Civilisation of Late Antiquity, Edinburgh 1991;


O. Raineri, La spiritualità etiopica, Roma 1996;


H. Pennec, Des Jésuites au Royaume du Prêtre Jean (Éthiopie). Stratégies, rencontres et tentatives d’implantation 1495-1633, Paris 2003;


O. Raineri, I cristiani d’Etiopia, in A. Ferrari (ed.), Popoli e Chiese dell’Oriente cristiano, Roma 2008, 61-97.