Debre Bizen

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Coordinates: 15°20′N 39°5′E / 15.333°N 39.083°E / 15.333; 39.083 Debre Bizen is the best-known monastery of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church. Located at the top of Debre Bizen the mountain (825 meters) near the town of Nefasit in Eritrea. Its library contains many important Ge'ez manuscripts.


Engraving of Debre Bizen, originally published in J.T. Bent, The Sacred City of the Ethiopians (London, 1896)

Debre Bizen was founded in the 1350s by Abba Filipos, who was a student of Abba Absadi. By 1400, the Monastery followed the rule of the House of Ewostatewos, and a gadl of Ewostatewos was later composed there.[1] According to Tom Killion, it remained independent of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church,[2] while Richard Pankhurst states that it continued to be dependent on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church centered in Axum.[3] In either case, a charter survives of the Emperor Zara Yaqob in which he granted lands to Debre Bizen.[4]

The monastery was one of several habitations damaged by the Ottomans in their campaigns to establish their province of Habesh in the 16th century.[5]

When Abuna Yohannes, who came from Cairo to Ethiopia to serve as head of the Ethiopian Church, was held for ransom at Arqiqo by the local Naib, the abbot of Debre Bizen helped him to escape.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pankhurst, Richard (1997). The Ethiopian Borderlands: Essays in Regional History from Ancient Times to the End of the 18th Century. Red Sea Press Press. p. 38. ISBN 0-932415-19-9. 
  2. ^ Killion, Tom (1998). Historical Dictionary of Eritrea. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-3437-5. 
  3. ^ Pankhurst, The Ethiopian Borderlands, p. 37
  4. ^ G.W.B. Huntingford, The historical geography of Ethiopia from the first century AD to 1704, (Oxford University Press: 1989), p. 103
  5. ^ Pankhurst, The Ethiopian Borderlands, p. 234
  6. ^ Richard R.K. Pankhurst, The Ethiopian Royal Chronicles (Oxford: Addis Ababa, 1967), pp. 125-9.