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Abyssinian Church


ABYSSINIAN CHURCH. As the chronicle of Axum re lates, Christianity was adopted in Abyssinia in the 4th century. About A.D. 33o Frumentius was made first bishop of Ethiopia by Athanasius, patriarch of Alexandria. Little is known of church history down to the period of Jesuit rule, which broke the connec tion with Egypt from about 1500 to 1633.

Early in the 16th century the church was brought under the in fluence of a Portuguese mission. The initiative in the Roman Catholic missions to Abyssinia was taken by Portugal, as an inci dent in the struggle with the Muslims for the command of the trade route to India by the Red sea. In i5o7 Matthew, or Matheus, an Armenian, had been sent as Abyssinian envoy to Portugal to ask aid against the Muslims, and in 152o an embassy under Dom Rodrigo de Lima landed in Abyssinia.

Generally the Abyssinians agree with the Copts in ritual and practice (see article, COPTS). The Septuagint was translated into the literary language, which is used for all services, though hardly understood. Saints and angels are highly revered, if not adored, but graven images are forbidden. Fasts are long and rigid. Confession and absolution, strictly enforced, give great power to the priesthood. Pilgrimage to Jerusalem is a religious duty and covers many sins.

For an account written shortly before the World War see Dowling, The Abyssinian Church (5909). The account of Alvarez was translated and edited for the Hakluyt Soc. by Lord Stanley of Alderley under the title Narrative of the Portuguese Embassy to Abyssinia (1881).

With reference to present social and political conditions, see ABYSSINIA. On the architecture, see J. C. Hotten, Abyssinia Described (i868), and (especially with reference to monuments of heathen origin) Bent, The Sacred City of the Ethiopians (1896).

abyssinia, portuguese and embassy