The Jesuit Mission to Ethiopia (1557–1632) and the Origins of Gondärine Architecture (Seventeenth–Eighteenth Centuries)

  • Victor M. Fernández
Part of the Contributions To Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA)


During the time when the Ethiopian kings were based in the city of Gondär (c. 1636–1769), they erected a series of stone-and-mortar buildings (‘castles’ or ‘palaces’) of semi-military style, which are nowadays one of the main tourist attractions of the country and have intrigued scholars ever since their first description by the Scottish traveler James Bruce in 1790. Recent studies have tended to reject the importance attributed by traditional scholarship—heavily influenced by colonial prejudices—to the influence of Portuguese and Jesuit presence in the country all through the previous decades and have instead looked for a mainly Oriental origin (Ottoman, Indian, etc.) of the architecture. After the archaeological/architectural survey and excavations at several of the main Jesuit sites by a team led by the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (2006–2014), there seems to be enough reasons to take the important buildings made by the Jesuit missionaries and technicians, between 1621 and 1632, as one of the main sources of the subsequent Gondärine architecture.


Jesuit missions Gondärine architecture Azäzo Gondär Ethiopia 



The archaeological research was funded by the Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España (Dirección General de Bellas Artes y Bienes Culturales, Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte de España), within the yearly program of ‘Ayudas, en régimen de concurrencia competitiva, para proyectos arqueológicos en el exterior.’ The research team was composed of Víctor M. Fernández, director; Jorge de Torres, Carlos Cañete, Jaime Almansa, Cristina Charro, María Luisa García (Spain), and María José Friedlander (UK), archaeologists; Dawit Tibebu, Gashaw Belay, Abebe Mengistu, and Haftom Berhane, archaeologists (Ethiopia); Andreu Martínez d’Àlos-Moner, Hervé Pennec, and Manuel J. Ramos, historians; Eduardo Martín and Víctor del Arco, topographers; Christian Dietz and Gianluca Catanzariti, geophysical technicians; and Federico Wulff and Melina Guirnaldos, architects. The contributions are deeply acknowledged of the following institutions: Authority for the Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (Addis Ababa), Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Universidad de Granada, Hamburg Universität, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique-Marseille, ISCTE-University Institute-Lisbon.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de PrehistoriaUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain

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