Old Church of St Mary of Zion


The rectangular, men-only old church at the southern end of the complex of churches here is a remarkable example of traditional architecture built by the Emperor Fasiladas, the founder of Gonder, in 1665. Inside there are fine original murals, including a painting of the Nine Saints. Some say the foundation on which it sits may belong to Africa’s first church, supposedly erected by King Ezana in the 4th century and destroyed in the 9th century during Queen Gudit’s devastating raid.

A rebuilt version was destroyed during the incursions of Ahmed Gragn the Left-Handed in 1535, and some remains lie just south of the museum.

Also of historical interest, at the top of the stairs in front of the old church, is the Throne Stone where the coronation of 261 Aksumite kings took place.