St Stephen of the Abyssinians

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St Stephen of the Abyssinians
Santo Stefano degli Abissini
Santo Stefano degli Abissini.jpg
St Stephen of the Abyssinians is located in Vatican City
St Stephen of the Abyssinians
Location on a map of Vatican City
Basic information
Location Vatican City
Geographic coordinates 41°54′06.47″N 012°27′06.74″E / 41.9017972°N 12.4518722°E / 41.9017972; 12.4518722Coordinates: 41°54′06.47″N 012°27′06.74″E / 41.9017972°N 12.4518722°E / 41.9017972; 12.4518722
Affiliation Coptic Catholic
Rite Alexandrian Rite (Coptic)
Country Vatican City
Ecclesiastical or organizational status National Church in Rome of Ethiopia
Architectural description
Architectural type Church
Groundbreaking 5th century [1]
Completed 9th century
Length 35 metres (115 ft)
Width 20 metres (66 ft)
Width (nave) 10 metres (33 ft)

St Stephen of the Abyssinians (Italian: Santo Stefano degli Abissini) is an Ethiopian Catholic church located in Vatican City. The church dedicated to Stephen the Protomartyr is the national church of Ethiopia. The liturgy is celebrated according to the Alexandrian rite of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. It is one of the only standing structures in the Vatican (besides the clementine chapel, niche of the pallia, the apostolic palace complex) to survive the destruction of old St. Peter's basilica, and thus it is the oldest surviving church (in terms of architectural history) in Vatican City.[1]


The church was, by tradition, built by Pope Leo I (ca. 400–461), and named Santo Stefano Maggiore.[2]

It was rebuilt in 1159 under Pope Alexander III. No later than in the 15th century, Ethiopian pilgrims began living in the buildings adjacent to the church and formed a stable community that would endure until the 17th century.[1]


The façade is in the style of the early 18th century. The 12th century doorway, decorated with the Lamb and the Cross, has been preserved.


The church has a single nave with ancient columns along the sides. The most important work of art is a fresco of the Madonna with Child in the Roman style from the 15th century.


The Feast of St. Stephen is celebrated on 26 December.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Metropolitan Museum of Art 1983, p. 151
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Rome". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.