The Golden Gospels and Chronicle of Aksum at Aksum Seyon’s Church: The photographs taken by Theodor v. Lüpke (1906)
Contributor(s)Institut des Mondes Africains (IMAF) ; Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (UP1) - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) - École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) - École pratique des hautes études (EPHE) - Aix Marseille Université (AMU) - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
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The photographs of the DAE taken in 1906 show two complementary aspects of the written history of Aksum. First, the Golden Gospels of Aksum is a cartulary of the royal charters promulgated in favour of the northern religious institutions, via Aksum. Aksum has been, at least until Fasilädäs, a privileged political center who acted as an intermediary between northern institutions and the royal court. Second, the compilation known as the Bokk of Aksum is made of heterogeneous texts. Nonetheless, this sequence of documents is the result of choices and shall be understood as a single – or at least a cumulative – historiographical project. Some sequences can be deciphered, leading to an understanding of the narrative intent that links those documents. The first movement focuses on the consecration and anointment of the kings in Aksum, which finds its legitimacy in the narrative of the Kebrä Nägäśt, when King Solomon anoints his son Ebn El-Hakim in Jerusalem and transfers to him the kingship over Israel. A second sequence deals with land tenure as attributed to the church of Aksum Ṣeyon by royal donations. The legendary anchor of the first and main gult, instituting Abreha and Aṣbehä as the first royal grantors of the land tenure of the church, shows that it has been a necessity to link the obvious remnants of the past and thus to ensure the preeminence of Aksum upon any other place in Ethiopia. A third movement returns to history and is clearly attributed to King Śärṣä Dengel. It is composed of lists of kings - Christian as well as Muslims - and patriarchs, and inserts the history of Aksum in a broader framework. The opening of Ethiopian historiography to „Universal Histories“ -translated from Arabic- as well as the confrontation of the Ethiopian Christian kingdoms to the Ottoman and the European worlds during the 16th century mark the opening up of Ethiopian historiography to the wider world and might have contributed to this new way of writing and formalising history. A fourth movement mentions the flight of the Ark of the Covenant from Aksum during the Roman catholic reign of Susenyos (ca. 1615), the rebuilding of the church during Fasilädäs' reign (1655) and the renewal of laws, rules, charges and gult donations by King Iyasu (1687) before his failed attempt to be anointed in Aksum. Ending the compilation, a version of the Short Chronicles has been added. It goes until the 4th year of Fasilädäs reign and the building of Gondär, as if the birth of the new capital of the monarchy was the end of the Aksumite history.Eventually, Aksum is the main character of this compilation. The historiographical project behind it is to place Aksum at the centre of a „national history”.