December 7, 2015

0139, 0937, 2106 ETHIOPIA (Amhara) - Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region (UNESCO WHS)

0937 Fasil Ghebbi - The curtain wall

Posted on 07.03.2012, 02.01.2014, and 07.12.2015
Fasil Ghebbi is a fortress-enclosure in Gondar, a city nicknamed The Camelot of Africa and located in southwest of the Simien Mountains, on the northern plateau of Tana, at 2,133m above sea level. In the 16th and 17th centuries it was the residence of the Ethiopian emperor Fasilides and his successors. Surrounded by a 900m-long wall, the city contains palaces, churches, monasteries and unique public and private buildings marked by Hindu, Nubian and Arab influences, subsequently transformed by the Baroque style brought to Gondar by the Jesuit missionaries. The complex is enclosed by a curtain wall with twelve gates.

0139 Fasil Ghebbi - The ceremonial
bathing place of emperor Fasilades

The main castle of the complex, a three sections (two stories) castle with square plan, surrounded by later fortresses, was built in the late 1630s and early 1640s on the orders of Fasilides, and is the most magnificent and elegant building of Gondar. With its huge towers and looming battlemented walls, it resembles a piece of medieval Europe transposed to Ethiopia. It seams that Fasilides was also responsible for the building of a number of other structures, probably the oldest being the Enqulal Gemb (Egg Castle), so named on account of its egg-shaped domed roof.

2106 Fasil Ghebbi - Debre Berhan Selassie Church
- The ceilling with rows of winged cherubs

The Bathing Palace is a two-storeyed battlemented structure situated within and on one side of a rectangular pool, which is filled with water only during Timkat (baptism), the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany, celebrated on the 10th day of Terr following the Ethiopian calendar. The bathing pavilion itself stands on pier arches, and contains several rooms reached by a stone bridge. During the ceremonies, the tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant, is wrapped in rich cloth and born in procession. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated on around 2 a.m. near the pool, and the water is blessed and sprinkled on the participants, symbolizing the baptism. By noon the tabot is escorted back to its church in colorful procession.

With its stone walls, arched doors, two-tiered thatch roof and well-preserved paintings, Debre Berhan Selassie (Trinity and Mountain of Light) is one of the most beautiful churches in Ethiopia, built by Emperor Eyasu II in the 17th century. When the Mahdist Dervishes of the Sudan sacked Gondar in 1888, they burned down every church in the city except this one. According to a legend, when the soldiers approached the church, a swarm of bees descended on the compound and kept the soldiers back.

The ceilling, with its rows of winged cherubs, representing the omnipresence of God, draws most eyes. Although local tradition attributes most paintings to the 17th-century artist Haile Meskel, this is unlikely because the building only dates back to the late 18th century. A large stone wall with 12 rounded towers surrounds the compound and these represent the 12 apostles. The larger 13th tower (entrance gate) symbolises Christ and is shaped to resemble the Lion of Judah.

Some details about the Ethiopian Church are absolutely necessary. Christianity reached in Ethiopia very early (42-52 AD), brought by Philip the Evangelist, and in the 4th century, under king Ezana of the Axumite Kingdom, Orthodox Christianity became the established church through the efforts of a Syrian Greek named Frumentius (known in Ethiopia as Abba Selama), the first Bishop of the country. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is part of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, i.e. the Churchs which haven't recognized the Council of Chalcedon (451), where Monophysitism (belief in the one single unified Nature of Christ) was condemned as heresy.

About the stamps
On the postcard 0139

The first stamp, depicting Menelik's Bushbuck (Tragelaphus Scriptus Menelik), an endemic species of antelope, was issued on December 12, 2002. Series contains 24 stamps with the same image, but with different colors, depending on face value.
• blue (0.05 ETB) - It's on the postcard 1559
purple (0.25 ETB) - It's on the postcard 0937
deep blue (0.55 ETB) - It's on the postcard 0139
red (5 ETB) - It's on the postcard 1842

The second stamp, issued on 2003, depict also an endemic species, this time vegetal one, Crinum Bambusetum.

The third is part of Sabean Inscriptions set, issued on August 28, 2005
0.15 ETB
0.40 ETB
0.45 ETB
3.00 ETB - It's on the postcard 0139

On the postcard 0937
The first stamp is part of a series issued on March 18, 2003, with the occasion of the 23rd Anniversary of Pan African Postal Union. Series contains 4 stamps with the same image, but with different colors, depending on face value:
0.20 ETB
0.80 ETB
1.00 ETB - It's on the postcard 0937
2.00 ETB

The second stamp is part of the series Critically endangered Rhinoceros - Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), issued on June 20, 2005. Series contains 10 stamps with the same image, but with different colors, depending on face value - 5c, 10c, 15c, 20c, 25c, 30c, 35c, 40c, 45c, and 4 birr (on the postcard). About the third stamp I wrote above.

On the postcard 2106
The stamp, depicting even Debre Berhan Selassie Church, was issued in 2014.

Fasil Ghebbi - Wikipedia
Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region - UNESCO official website

Timkat - Wikipedia
Gondar - Alemet Ethiopia, tour operation
Debre Berhan Selassie - Lonely Planet
Debre Birhan Selassie Church, Gondar - Sacred Destinations

Sender 0139: Getachew Mekaneo (direct swap)
Sent from Addis Ababa (Addis Ababa / Ethiopia), on 11.02.2012
Sender 0937: Kate Fereday Eshete (direct swap)
Sent from Debark (Amhara / Ethiopia), on 22.11.2013
Sender 2106: Adam Wole (direct swap)
Sent from Addis Ababa (Addis Ababa / Ethiopia), on 03.11.2015

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