Ethiopia – Sub-Sahara Easter Procession (03.04.12)

The pre-Easter Holy Week  is marked by many different and diverse rituals around the world. As the end of Lent leads into Easter I have been fortunate to witness a diverse mix of ceremonies and celebrations over the years – from white cowl hooded processions in Europe and parts of Asia to colourful costumed parades in Latin America.

The most remarkable selection of Holy Week celebrations I have witnessed are amongst the pre-colonial Christian churches of the sub-Sahara. The Orthodox churches have a membership of up to 45 million with some of the oldest rituals in Christendom. Indeed Orthodox Christianity was first established in the Axumite Kingdom under King Ezana in the 4th century.

These photos  give an insight into the Pre-Easter Holy Week gatherings and services at the monolithic churches at Lalibela and Axum where the Arc of the Covenant (that Moses carried with the Israelites during the Exodus) is believed to rest.

The twelve monolithic rock churches of Lalibela – which have been almost in accessible to the outside world for centuries – are located in Semien Wollo region, set at 2,500 metres and are carved out from the original rock face. They attract a very solemn and devout congregation throughout Holy Week with open air church services and long prayer sessions.

The additional link takes you to a film I shot of a Pre-dawn Holy Week procession in Axum.

The candlelit procession marks the carrying of a replica ark around the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion before sunrise. The spell binding procession followed by first men and then women as they accompany the high priests with song and prayer.