The Church of Our Virgin Mary of Zion Postcard
The Church of Our Virgin Mary of Zion (Amharic: ርዕሰ አድባራት ቅድስተ ቅዱሳን ድንግል ማሪያም ፅዮን Re-ese Adbarat Kidiste Kidusan Dingel Maryam Ts’iyon) of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the most important church in Ethiopia. The original church is believed to have been built during the reign of Ezana, the first Christian emperor of Ethiopia, during the 4th century AD, and has been rebuilt several times since then. St. Mary of Zion claims to contain the original Ark of the Covenant. According to tradition, the Ark came to Ethiopia with Menelik I after visiting his father King Solomon. Only the guardian monk may view the Ark, in accordance with the Bible accounts of the dangers of doing so for non-Kohanim. This lack of accessibility, and questions about the account as a whole, has led foreign scholars to express doubt about the veracity of the claim. The guardian monk is appointed for life by his predecessor before the predecessor dies. If the incumbent guardian dies without naming a successor, then the monks of the monastery hold an election to select the new guardian. The guardian then is confined to the chapel of the Ark of the Covenant for the rest of his life, praying before it and offering incense. Agreeing with ancient sources about a magnificent light emitted from the Ark, the History Channel in a 2008 special claimed that many of the guardian monks have died in short time, mostly with cataracts having formed in their eyes.