They were massacred trying to stop the royal raiders of the Lost Ark, an artifact so powerful and holy that they were forbidden to see it.
The heartbreaking mass murder of at least 800 people at an Ethiopian church in Tigray highlighted the apparent whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant, one of the greatest mysteries of religion and the stuff of movie legend.
The ark, a large gold-covered wooden chest said to contain the Ten Commandments of Moses, was kept in Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem for centuries, but disappeared after Jerusalem was sacked in 586 or 587 BC. C., according to the Old Testament.
His whereabouts have since been unknown, with rumors including that he was stolen by the Knights Templar and hidden in a rebuilt French cathedral, plus he was buried alongside Alexander the Great in Greece.
However, Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia have long argued that the ark has been kept in a chapel in the Church of St. Mary of Zion in the holy northern city of Axum.
According to legend, the ark was brought to Ethiopia in the 10th century BC after being stolen by the staff of Menelik, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of Israel, who considered that the theft was allowed by God because none of his men were killed.
The ark is said to be so dangerous that it was always covered as it moved, and in Axum, only virgin monks ordained to be its guardian can look at it.
There have never been photographs of her, only illustrations based on the description in Exodus chapter 25, verses 10-21, of a box of “acacia wood” covered in gold and carried on two poles.
Even the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is “forbidden to see it,” then-chief His Holiness Abuna Paulos told Smithsonian Magazine in 2007. “The keeper of the ark is the only person on earth who has such incomparable honor.” He said at the time.
The guardian “prays constantly by the ark, day and night, burning incense before it and paying tribute to God,” the then high priest of Aksum told the magazine.
“Only he can see it; everyone else is forbidden to see or even go near him. ”
Thousands of people gather at the church in Zion in late November to celebrate the day Ethiopians believe the Ark of the Covenant was brought there, one of the reasons so many people were there during the November massacre, which was only recently reported.
“When people heard the shooting, they ran to the church to support the priests and others who were there protecting the ark,” Getu Mak, 32, a university professor, told the Times of London. “Certainly some of them were killed for doing that.”
Reports of the destruction and looting of priceless artifacts by the troops raised fears that the ark would be attacked. “Everyone was worried that they would take them … or just disappear, including me,” Mak told the British newspaper.
It was not immediately clear how the ark of the church was saved, or what happened to its keeper.
Some historians also insist that the sacrifices were made to defend a worthless replica.
Edward Ullendorff, a late professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, previously told the Los Angeles Times that he saw the ark during World War II and that it was “a wooden box, but it is empty. “.
“Construction from the Middle Ages to late, when they were made ad hoc,” he said in the 1992 interview, saying that the mystery surrounding it was “mainly to maintain the idea that it is a revered object.”
Before his death, Ullendorff told fellow professor Tudor Parfitt that he was “in no way different from many coffers he had seen in other churches in Ethiopia,” Parfitt told Live Science in 2018.
“It wasn’t ancient and it certainly wasn’t the original ark,” Parfitt said.
However, Ethiopians have long put those reports aside, insisting that people were shown fakes to protect the royal ark, their faith as strong as ever.
“If you attack Axum, you attack first of all the identity of Orthodox Tigrayans, but also of all Ethiopian Orthodox Christians,” said Wolbert Smidt, an ethnohistorian who specializes in the region. “Axum itself is considered a church in the local tradition, ‘Axum Zion'”.
With pole cables