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Saint Yared iconographic symbolism, with three major chants, Ge'ez, Ezel and Araray
Born(505-04-25)25 April 505
Axum, Kingdom of Aksum
Died20 May 571(571-05-20) (aged 66)
Semien Mountains, Kingdom of Aksum
Venerated inEthiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church
Ethiopian Catholic Church
Eritrean Catholic Church[1]
Feast19 May
AttributesOld man wearing traditional attir, and holding walking stick (mequamia), tsenatsel in front of Deggua book and three chants: Ge'ez, Ezel and Araray represented in terms of doves

Saint Yared (Ge'ez: ቅዱስ ያሬድ; 25 April 505 – 20 May 571)[2][3] was an Axumite composer in the 6th century. Often credited with the forerunner of traditional music of Ethiopia and Eritrea, he developed the religious music of Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Eritrean Orthodox Church, and the use in liturgical music, as well as the Ethiopian musical notation system. Additionally, he composed Zema, or the chant tradition of Ethiopia, particularly the chants of the Ethiopian-Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Churches, which are still performed today.

Born in Axum, his earlier education was dwindled after his father death, and his mother subsequently sent him to parish priest Abba Gedeon. Upon embarking exile to his uncle's birthplace in Murade Qal, Yared remorsed from his failure in education after he saw exemplification of caterpillar effort to climb up tree for its peak. Stimulated by caterpillar's success, Yared gained confidence on his worth and achieved his success in later life. He became priest of Holy Ark of Sion. At the reign of Emperor Gebre Meskel (son of Emperor Kaleb), Yared significantly gained prominence for his musical style and the emperor beloved him.

During Nine Saints expedition from Byzantine Empire, Yared cooperated with them to build several churches in location of Lake Tana, Begemder and in Tigray Province. One of the church called Saint Mariam was founded together after debilitating journey in the location of Zur Amba. In Abune Aragawi's Gadla Aragawi account states the name "Zur Amba" derivated from God's appearance in order to guide him to the east side to build the church.

He is regarded as a saint of the Ethiopian-Eritrean Orthodox Church with a feast day of 19 May. His name is from the Biblical person known in English as "Jared" (Book of Genesis 5:15).

Life and role[edit]

Yared was born on 25 April 505 in the village of Axum, Axumite Kingdom from his mother Tauklia and his father Adam. When he reached six, his parent gave him tutelage of Yishaq, who was a teacher of Axum. Under his instruction, Yared completed alphabet and Psalms. Yishaq brought Yared back to his parent and his father died. Unable to raise him, his mother Tauklia left him to his brother Abba Gedeon, who was a parish priest. Gedeon was a teacher of Old and New Testament in Saint Mary of Sion and he began translating Holy Scriptures into Ge'ez from Hebrew and Greek. At that time Yared was in poor education and unable to acquire knowledge, which led him severe punishments and mockery at school. Aware of his failure, Yared decided to go on to his uncle's birthplace Medebai Welel. Due to heavy rain, Yared sheltered under a nearby tree in place of Murade Qal.

Pondering his life, Yared rested and noticed a caterpillar climbing the tree to eat leaves. The caterpillar continued to fall down, but eventually it succeeded to reach its destination. Yared wept and returned to Gedeon and pledge him not to offend. Gedeon began teaching Psalms. Yared subsequently moved to Saint Mary of Sion for prayer. When Yared was fourteen, Gedeon died; Yared took his mastering position.

He then returned to Axum at the age of nine, becoming the chief priest in Holy Ark of Sion. Soon after, Yared composed "Ariam".

While at Axum, Yared brought into fruition the concept of traditional musical instruments like tsenatsel, begena, masenqo, inzira and kebero, created musical notations and alphabets, as well as mequamia.

During the 14-year rule of Emperor Gebre Meskel, the son of Emperor Kaleb, Yared became a dominant musical figure in Axum. He proclaimed as the greatest poet and the Emperor favored him. Soon after Yared composed Zema, resulting in his succession in church service. During this, Yared decided to live with ascetics and requested to the Emperor:

Promise to grant me...allow me to retire from my work in the court and to live among the people so that I may devote the rest of my life teaching, to meditation and to prayer.

Though Gebre Meskel resented by his retirement, he kept his promise and granted him to leave his service. Yared travelled to Semien Mountains.[4]

Yared become a pioneer of observing Hossana, also called Palm Sunday in Axum. He divided hymns into four parts: winter, summer, autumn and spring. He completed a book Deggua, De'guaa in Tigrinya, which means "lamentations". Deggua divides into three chanting modes: Ge'ez, Ezel, Araray. Ge'ez relies a plain chant for ordinary days, Ezel is increased measured beat for funeral and Araray is a free mode, light beats for festivals. The highest part of Deggua is Mahlet Yared (hymn of Yared). Those three chants represent the Trinity.

Yared also composed ten tones with notations, unlike the European modes consisting of six notes. Yared then developed their arrangements calling "Seraye", which signifies hymnary guideline. The glyphs of notations consist of dashes, dots and curves. Tsome Deggua is written for Lent, Me'eraf is sung for Sabbath vigils, Zimare is for Holy Communion, Mewasit is for funerals, requierems and Eastern Eve and Quidase is for Communion. These books spend nine years in order to complete.

The Nine Saints, who were expelled by religious persecution from Byzantine Empire and who reached Ethiopia in the 5th century, met with Yared, with whom he visited individual churches and aid them to build with assistance of Axumite Emperors. Yared also consecrated Debre Damo churches founded by Abuna Aregawi. One place where Yared successfully gave mastery is St. Qirkos in Lake Tana.[5]

Yared communication with one of saint named Abba Pantelewon was expedient. Pantelewon told that Yared knew Western tradition and he went to Constantinople once. He recalled that "I went to Rome [Second Rome Constatinople] where I saw a Church, I knew her and loved her like my own sister, a few years later, I visited her again during the time she was bathing in the river Tigre."

Through assistance of Pantelewon, Aragawi and Abba Yesehaq, Yared acknowledged the Western culture. According to Tarika Nagast and Gadla Aragawi, Emperor Gebre Meskel, Aragawi and Yared maintained stable friendship for establishing churches at Lake Tana, Begemder and Tigray. After two years, they went to Gayint and built a church called Saint Mariam at Zur Amba. The foundation is said to be as a result of "God's guide" and this location was named Zur Amba after "appearance of God to Aragawi". The account wrote about God's appearance and guidance to Aragawi in Ge'ez: "Zur Abba Mengale Misraq...." which means "...Abba, turn to the east; you will find the way to the hill."[6]

Later life and death[edit]

On the coronation of Gebre Meskel, Yared placed a wreath of flower to crown on him. The event is found in Deggua.

Yared died at the age of 66 on 20 May 571 in a cave of Semien Mountains. He had been traveling to teach.[5]

19 May is conceived as his feast day and the Orthodox Tewahedo Church venerate in commemoration of his disappearance.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kidane Mehret Ge'ez Rite Catholic Parish The Ge'ez Rite". Kidane-mehret.org.
  2. ^ Chavis, Charles L. (2011-04-05). "Yared (Saint), 505-571 AD". Retrieved 2020-05-03.
  3. ^ Giday, Belai (1991). Ethiopian Civilization. B. Giday.
  4. ^ "Saint Yared Poems > My poetic side". mypoeticside.com. Retrieved 2021-08-04.
  5. ^ a b "About St. Yared - St. Yared Ethiopian Cuisine & Coffeehaus - Indianapolis IN". www.styaredcuisine.com. Retrieved 2020-09-04.
  6. ^ "Saint Yared". www.abbayesehaq.com. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  7. ^ "The Feast of the Departure of Saint Yared – Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church Sunday School Department – Mahibere Kidusan". Retrieved 2021-08-28.

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