At the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, there was a small entrance fee which our guide, Eskedar, took care of. The area surrounding the cathedral was very busy with of lots of white robed local people lying down to kiss the ground, steps and doors of the Cathedral. After taking off our shoes, we found the interior virtually empty and very tranquil.
This is an Orthodox Ethiopian Cathedral and was divided into three parts.
Mass is held in the main and largest section with services starting at midnight on Saturday and running through to 6am on Sunday. Brightly coloured stained glass windows dominated both sides with scenes from the old testament on the left (starting with Adam and Eve) to the new testament on the right (ending with the resurrection). One on the left depicted the Queen of Sheba with King Solomon and Eskedar told the story of when the Queen visited King Solomon in Jerusalem. There was a big feast where lots of salt was used. King Solomon placed a jug of water outside her bedroom when she retired for the night which she drank. But as she’d not had his permission, she had to sleep with him and as a consequence gave birth to a son, Mennelik. When Mennelik returned to see his father in Jerusalem, he brought back the Ark of the Covenant which is how it ended up in Ethiopia.
On the high round ceiling were four frescos: two religious and two political. The latter depicted Haile Selassie speaking to the League of Nations (now the United Nations) in Geneva and the other him dressed in military uniform addressing troops on his return from England.
The second section was only for the priests and the third section houses the replica Ark of the Covenant which all churches and cathedrals have.
We also saw the marble tombs of Haile Selassie and his wife whose bodies were transferred from the Menelik II Mausoleum 25 years ago – Bob Marley’s widow, Rita, was part of the procession.
Having retrieved our shoes we walked around the church and found a memorial to the former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who died in 2012 aged 55. Above the tomb was a black and white painting of him standing next to a pile of books to depict his love of reading. One of the most prominent books was none other than William Hague’s biography of William Wilberforce. I took a photograph of the picture and sent it to Lord Hague on return who replied saying: ‘I was not aware of this picture. I believe I gave Mr Meles my book on Wilberforce, as something of a hint about human rights, but you never know when you give your book to a Prime Minister what he will do with it. Perhaps he even read it!‘
We also saw the grave of Sylvia Pankhurst who became a supporter of Haile Selassie and moved to Adidas Ababa on his invitation in 1956 with her son Richard. When she died in 1960 aged 78 she was given a full state funeral as an ‘honorary Ethiopian’.