Archival Data About the Ethiopian Orthodox Community in Jerusalem (1840-1948)

Stéphane Ancel, CNRS

Archival descriptions on AtoM
Open Jerusalem, all archival descriptions related to the Ethiopian Orthodox community: http://www.archives.openjerusalem.org/index.php/informationobject/browse?topLod=0&sort=relevance&query=Ethiopian+Orthodox+&repos=

Abstract

The presence of the Ethiopian Orthodox community in Jerusalem is attested as early as the 12th century. Since then, the community has had its ups and downs, and by the early 19th century it was in a very difficult situation, with only a few members living in the monastery of Dayr al-Sultan, located on the roof of the Chapel of St. Helena, adjacent to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. While some of the archives concerning the Ethiopian Orthodox community in Jerusalem are still in Holy City, a very large proportion of the archival documents relating to this community can be found in Ethiopia today, as well as in Turkey, Italy, France and England. The reason for this dispersion lies in the relations that members of the community maintained with various political and diplomatic players in the city during this period.The aim of this article is to report on the information-gathering work carried out by the Open Jerusalem project about the archives of Jerusalem’s Ethiopian Orthodox community. In addition this research paper  offers an overview of the archival collections concerning this community, while explaining the reasons for their location.

Keywords: Jerusalem, Archives, Ethiopian Orthodox Community

Since 2014, the “Open Jerusalem” project, led by Vincent Lemire and funded by the European Council of Research, has inventoried the archival fonts documenting the history of the city of Jerusalem from 1840 to 1948. The Open Jerusalem platform now makes the results of this information-gathering endeavor accessible. Even a brief visit to this platform highlights one of the city’s defining characteristics: Jerusalem is a global-city. One phenomenon in particular reflects this fact: many of the archives concerning the religious institutions present in the city from 1840 to 1948 are, for the most part, not in Jerusalem, but elsewhere in the world. The archives of Catholic communities, for example, are mainly located in Europe. And those of the Armenian Patriarchate are mainly preserved in Yerevan, Armenia. To a lesser extent, this phenomenon also affects the archives of civil and judicial authorities. The archives of the Ottoman administration, for example, are located in Istanbul, while the archives of the Islamic courts are in Haifa and those of Jerusalem’s Awqâf administration are in Abu-Dis. As for the archives of the various consular offices present in the city at the time, they have all been repatriated to their respective countries.

This is also true of the archives concerning the Ethiopian Orthodox community in Jerusalem. While some of these documents are still in Jerusalem, a very large proportion of the archival documents relating to this community can be found in Ethiopia today, as well as in Turkey, Italy, France and England. The presence of archival documents produced by or directly concerning the Ethiopian Orthodox community of Jerusalem in so many different countries is explained by the relations that members of the community were able to maintain with various political and diplomatic players in the city during this period.

The presence of the Ethiopian Orthodox community in Jerusalem is attested as early as the 12th century. Since then, the community has had its ups and downs, and by the early 19th century it was in a very difficult situation, with only a few members living in the monastery of Dayr al-Sultan, located on the roof of the Chapel of St. Helena, adjacent to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. From the 1850s, the community became involved in a dispute with members of the Coptic Church regarding the ownership of the Dayr al-Sultan monastery. This encouraged members of the community to seek support from outside the community, notably from the foreign consulates present in the area. It also encouraged the Ethiopian state to become more involved in supporting the community. In the third quarter of the 19th century, the church underwent a spectacular revival. In 1880, land outside the walls was purchased for the community and a new church was built. All around, the Ethiopian aristocracy acquired land and built homes and shops. As early as 1905, the Ottoman authorities called this district “Harat al-Habash”, i.e. the Ethiopian compound, a name that has survived to the present day.

This major development and the conflict with the Copts have left their mark on the archives of the city’s various components, be they governmental, municipal, religious or consular. The aim of this article is to report on the information-gathering work carried out by the Open Jerusalem project about the archives of Jerusalem’s Ethiopian Orthodox community, and also to offer an overview of the archival collections containing documents concerning this community, while explaining the reasons for their location.

The archives kept by the Ethiopian Orthodox community in Jerusalem

Scholars seeking access to the archives created by members of the Ethiopian community immediately come up against two major difficulties. The first one is the consequence of Ethiopia’s document archiving and accessibility policies. Archives in Ethiopia are still very scattered. Indeed, it was not until the reign of Menelik II (1889-1913) that the various ministries were given a body to manage their archives, but these were never collected and centralized in a preservation institution. In 1944, Emperor Haile Selassie (1930-1974) created the National Archives and Library of Ethiopia. However, the latter was not authorized to collect the archives of the various government bodies. It was only in 1999 that it was granted this role. So, for the most part, archives in Ethiopia are still kept in ministries and government buildings, where access is generally forbidden. This is the case, for example, with the archives of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This phenomenon also affects the documents of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Documents concerning a monastic community generally remain under the authority of the community and are preserved on site. It is therefore highly unlikely that the archives of the Jerusalem community can be found at the headquarters of the Orthodox Patriarchate in Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian Patriarchate, as an institution, is a recent creation (it dates back to 1959), and the archives preserved there are themselves very limited and concern only recent times. So, in theory, a scholar wanting to find documents produced for and by the monastic community of Jerusalem must travel to Jerusalem and negotiate access directly with members of the community.

Negotiations with the ecclesiastical authorities of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church were undertaken by the Open Jerusalem project team: this consisted in obtaining permission from members of this community to access the archives of the Jerusalem community, as well as those of the patriarchal authority in Addis Ababa. His Beatitude Matthias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Addis Ababa, and His Grace Enbaqom, the Ethiopian Archbishop of Jerusalem, have granted the Open Jerusalem team access to the archives in the Archbishop’s residence in the Old City (see: Ancel & Lemire, 2017, 111).

This is where the second difficulty arises: the small size of these archives. Indeed, part of the community’s archives has almost entirely disappeared. Ethiopian accounts tell us that the community’s archives were burnt around 1838 by the city’s Egyptian authorities. The plague having swept away all the members of the community, the authorities would have wanted to eliminate any possibility of contagion by setting fire to it. All the documents produced between 1800 and 1838 remain inaccessible to scholars. And the number of documents produced after 1838 remains limited. Successive reorganizations and losses have weakened these archives. Moreover, the damage (fire, water) suffered by these archives is still visible on the documents present (see Ancel & Lemire, 2017, 112). In addition, part of them has been transferred to Ethiopia, such as the Ethiopian consular archives, putting the lie to the principles mentioned above. We do not know exactly where. However, we can imagine that part of these archives is to be found with those of the Ethiopian monarchy preserved in the former imperial palace in Addis Ababa. For the moment, however, these archives are completely inaccessible.

Although limited in volume, the archives housed in the residence of the Ethiopian Archdiocese of Jerusalem (EARJ) contain some particularly interesting documents. The archives consist of two sections: one dedicated to manuscripts alone, the other to administrative documents. The first section consists mainly of manuscript books donated to the community by the Ethiopian aristocracy, from the second half of the 19th century onwards. A brief inventory is available (see: Isaac, 1984). Mainly made up of religious books, this section contains no documents relating to the life of the community itself, with the exception of one, copied in a manuscript bearing the reference code JE692E. This is an unpublished historical treatise on the Jerusalem community, written in Amharic during the 1920s (see: Pedersen, 1986).

The administrative archives section has a different character. It represents “living” archives, i.e. documents that are still used today to follow up various community affairs. These archives have not been inventoried and have been visited by very few specialists. As far as I know, only the historian Kirsten Pedersen has been able to get a fairly general idea of them, although she admits she has only seen part of them (see Pedersen, 1983, 41, n.90). The Open Jerusalem project team was thus able to select from among the files preserved here those relevant to the period under study, and to digitize a large proportion of them. The results of this investigation can be viewed on the Open Jerusalem platform.

Considering the limited size of these archives, the level of description chosen was that of the item. The documents in eight files have been digitized, and all testify to the daily life of the Ethiopian community in Jerusalem (see: Ancel, 2018). Together, they represent 185 entries on the Open Jerusalem project platform. The oldest document is an invoice dated 1896 for the payment of a tax, in favor of the Ethiopian abbot, on an oven and a garden, and whose photo is freely accessible via the platform.

Figure 1: Screenshot of Open Jerusalem Platform  – Invoice dated 1896

Among the digitized documents is a particularly interesting manuscript book: the memorandum on the history of the Dayr al-Sultan monastery, written between 1904 and 1905 by the Ethiopian monk Wäldä Madhen Arägawi. This manuscript was subject to a scientific publication (see Ancel & al., 2022) and all the folia are freely accessible on the Open Jerusalem platform.

Figure 2: Screenshot of Open Jerusalem Platform – Memorandum of Wäldä Mädhen Arägawi

The Ethiopian National Archives, Addis Ababa

As mentioned above, the National Archives and Library Agency (NALA) of Ethiopia has not directly collected documents from the Jerusalem community. However, they have received, and thus preserved and inventoried, a private collection of particular interest for the history of Jerusalem’s Ethiopian community. This is the collection of archives from the Jerusalem Memorial Association of Ethiopian Believers, which organized the travel of Ethiopian pilgrims to Jerusalem. The association was founded in 1963 and is still active today. Part of the archives of the association was therefore donated to the National Archives, which gave it the reference number 6.1, and entitled it as “yäEyärusalém mättasäbiya derejjet [Jerusalem Memorial Association]”. This collection is currently being inventoried for the Open Jerusalem platform.

This collection comprises 71 files. The greater part of the documents deals only with the association’s internal affairs in Ethiopia, but one can find several historical documents of great importance. For example, there is a copy of the 1924 agreement between the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Damasios and the ras Tafari (the future Haile Selassie) on the transfer of a room in the Abraham Monastery in Jerusalem to the Ethiopian community (see: Ancel & Lemire, 2017, 108-110).

The Ottoman Imperial Archives, Istanbul

With the Ottoman Empire in control of Jerusalem from 1517 to 1917, with the exception of the brief Egyptian occupation from 1831 to 1841, the Open Jerusalem project team set about researching documents in the Ottoman Imperial Archives (Başbakanlı Osmanlı Arşivi, BOA) in Istanbul. The result of this investigation is a great number of documents digitized and fully accessible on the Open Jerusalem Platform.

The archives of the Ottoman Empire offer numerous documents concerning the Ethiopian community of Jerusalem. There are two main reasons for the visibility of Ethiopians in these archives. Firstly, the dispute with the Copts over ownership of the Dayr al-Sultan monastery generated, on the one hand, petitions and representations by the protagonists to the local Ottoman authority to arbitrate the dispute, and on the other, the disturbance of public order caused by this conflict obliged the authorities to intervene and report back to their hierarchy. Secondly, the development of Ethiopian real estate activities in the city also left its mark on the documentation, through requests for building permits and the search for land for sale. This explains why most of the documents are dated between 1880 and 1910.

The files in the Ottoman archives thus preserve the requests and petitions sent by Ethiopians, as well as the documents of the Ottoman administration responsible for settling the issues raised by these same requests. The best example of this phenomenon are the files devoted to the Ethiopians’ request to build a new church in Jerusalem, but outside the walls, a request made as early as 1880. These files (“gömleck”) with reference numbers ŞD 2491-22 and Y.A.HUS. 170-97 are accessible on the Open Jerusalem platform. Visitors can view, for example, the letter sent by Ethiopian King of Kings Yohannes IV (1872-1889) in 1882 to Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, kept in file Y.A.HUS. 170-97.

Figure 3: Screenshot of Open Jerusalem Platform – letter sent by Ethiopian King of Kings Yohannes IV (1872-1889) in 1882 to Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II

The documents concerning the Ethiopian community of Jerusalem are found in files kept in various collections: Bâb-ı Âli Evrak Odası (code: beo) [The Documentary Office of the Sublime Porte]; Yıldız Esas Evrakı (code: y.ee) [The Main Documents of Yıldız Palace (Affairs dealt by the Sultan)]; Yıldız Sadâret Hususi Maruzat Evrakı (code: y.a.hus) [The Documents of Special Petitions, the Grand Vizirate]; Divan Kalemi Defterleri (code : a.dvn.nmh) [The Registers of Head of the Government Chancery Office (Beylikçi)]; Şurâ-yı Devlet Belgeleri (code: ŞD) [The Documents of Şurâ-yı Devlet (Conseil d’Etat)]; Hariciye Nezâreti Hukuk Müşavirliği İstişare Odası Belgeleri (code : hr.hms.iso) [The Documents of Consultation Office of the Legal Counsellor, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs]; Meclis-i Vükela Mazbataları (code: mv) [The Reports of the Council of Ministers]; İrade Adliye ve Mezahib (code: i.azn) [Imperial Rescript (Judicial and Religious Affairs)].

The Italian Historical Diplomatic Archives, Rome

In the search for a solution to the conflict against the Copts, as well as for their development in the city, the Ethiopians of Jerusalem, and through them the Ethiopian imperial power, came into contact with the city’s political and consular actors to ask for help and support (see Ancel & al., 2022, 93-122). For their part, the consular authorities of the European powers present in Jerusalem sought to attract favour with the city’s Ethiopians in order to increase their influence in the city. Moreover, by helping the Ethiopians in Jerusalem, they could, in theory, hope for the goodwill of the Ethiopian government for their colonial policy in East Africa. As a result, England, France, Russia and Italy took a particular interest in this community, and maintained close relations with them. Their respective archives hold many documents concerning them.

Among the archives of the European consulates present in Jerusalem at the time, the Italian historical diplomatic archives (Archivio storico diplomatico del Ministero degli Affari Esteri, ASDMAE), located in Rome, offer the richest archival record concerning the Ethiopian community in Jerusalem. This can be explained by the fact that the Italians took an early interest in this community (as early as 1880), and that in 1902 the Ottoman government granted the Italian consulate in Jerusalem protection for Ethiopians in Jerusalem. The Ethiopian consulate acted as an intermediary between the Ottoman authorities and Ethiopians in consular matters and property acquisitions. This activity continued after 1917 and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It continued until Ethiopia opened a consular representation in Jerusalem in 1930. Thus, in the archives of the Italian Consulate General in Jerusalem (Consolato Generale d’Italia di Gerusalemme, CGIG) we find a large number of documents concerning the management of the Ethiopian Orthodox community in Jerusalem. The Open Jerusalem platform offers an inventory of the archives of the Italian Consulate General. The level of description chosen is the files. Among the archive boxes (posizioni) kept, two are entitled “Ethiopian Affairs”, and deal with the support and management of the Ethiopian community in Jerusalem. These two boxes contain 33 files and cover the end of the Ottoman period, from 1883 to 1917, the period of British military occupation, from 1917 to 1922, and a large part of the League of Nations mandate, from 1922 to 1931.

Figure 4: Screenshot of Open Jerusalem Platform – The Two Boxes concerning Ethiopian Affairs in the Archives of Italian General Consulate in Jerusalem

But the Italian historical diplomatic archives also offer another particularly interesting collection, soon to be integrated into the Open Jerusalem platform. Indeed, the collection devoted to the archives of the Ministry of Italian Africa (Ministero Africa Italiana, MAI) contains four “posizioni” devoted entirely to Jerusalem’s Ethiopian community. These four boxes of archives are numbered 42/1, 42/2, 42/3 and 42/4 and cover the period from 1887 to 1915. These archives partly overlap with those of the Italian Consulate General, but offer an absolutely essential addition.

French diplomatic and consular archives, La Courneuve, Nantes

After those of Italy, the French consular and diplomatic archives offer the largest number of documents preserved in Europe on the Ethiopians of Jerusalem. Indeed, the French government was an ultimately unsuccessful candidate for the protection of the Ethiopian Orthodox community living in the city. The archives held by the Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France, La Courneuve (CADC) testify to the efforts made by the French to maintain relations with this community, from the 1880s to the 1930s. For example, in the “Correspondance politiques des consuls, 1826-1896” (CPC) collection, kept at La Courneuve, the series 74CPC, devoted to the correspondence of consuls in Turkey and Jerusalem, comprises several documents concerning Ethiopians, as we can see from the inventory provided by the Open Jerusalem platform.

Figure 5: Screenshot of Open Jerusalem Platform – Description of a Letter send in 1881 by the French Consul to French Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning Ethiopians in Jerusalem

In addition, within the “Correspondance politique et commerciale, nouvelle série (CPCOM, NS) 1897-1918” collection, the La Courneuve archive centre holds, within the “196CPCOM: Saint-Siège” series, a large file on the Ethiopian community in Jerusalem, with the reference 196CPCOM/89, containing documents dating from 1896 to 1910. In the same collection, the “206CPCOM: Turkey” series includes a file with the reference 206CPCOM/430, containing a census of Ethiopian monks in Jerusalem in 1917. This collection will shortly be integrated into the Open Jerusalem platform.

However, it is the French diplomatic and consular archives in Nantes (Centre of Diplomatic Archives in Nantes, CADN) that offer the richest records concerning Jerusalem’s Ethiopian community. The Nantes diplomatic archives center holds the archives of the French Consulate General in Jerusalem (294PO). The Open Jerusalem platform provides a description of this archive.

Figure 6: Screenshot of Open Jerusalem Platform – Description of the archives of the French Consulate General in Jerusalem (294PO)

This collection contains two thick files concerning Jerusalem’s Ethiopian community. These are part of the collection’s Series A, and bear the reference 294PO/A/134 and 294/A/135, each entitled “Sur les Abyssins”. They include documents dating from 1843 to 1911.  Series B of the collection also contains a small file on the Ethiopians of Jerusalem, under the reference 294PO/B/159, entitled “Questions religieuses, dont Abyssins (1918-1941)”. These files will be integrated into the Open Jerusalem platform.

The British National Archives, Kew

The British consular authority was chronologically the first to attempt to “protect” Ethiopians in Jerusalem. This attempt, which took place between 1850 and 1867, is reflected in the archives of the Foreign Office, held at the British National Archives (BNA) at Kew. Some of the British consuls’ correspondence concerning the Ethiopian community, from 1850 to 1867, has been published (see Devine, 1868). The originals are still accessible, as a search on the Open Jerusalem platform shows.

Figure 7: Screenshot of Open Jerusalem Platform  – Description of a Letter send in 1858 by the British Consul to British Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning Ethiopians in Jerusalem

British interest in the community did not end after 1867. The “Foreign Office: Record of Embassies” collection includes several series containing documents on the Ethiopian community, such as series “FO195: Turkey”, of course, as well as “FO141: Egypt, after 1906”, which includes a file, with the reference FO141/593/11, entitled “Abyssinian Claim to the Convent of Deir al-Sultan, 1934”, and another one with the reference FO141/666/8, entitled “British assistance to the Abyssinian Community in Jerusalem, 1917-1928”. Another collection, “CO: Records of the Colonial Office, correspondence with the colonies”, also contains documents in the series “CO733: Colonial Office: Palestine”. There are three files (bearing the reference CO733/2/22; CO733/11/25; and CO733/134/7) containing reports on the situation of Ethiopians in Jerusalem in 1918, 1921 and 1927. The whole set of files will soon be integrated into the Open Jerusalem platform.

Perspectives

The collection of archival data concerning the Ethiopian community is not yet finished. More investigation is necessary in several archival repositories, like the Israel State Archives for example, but also the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem. However, the aim of the Open Jerusalem platform has already been reached. The Open Jerusalem platform offers the possibility to gather and link together archival data documenting the history of Jerusalem. Furthermore, it permits gathering archival information concerning an institution or a group like the Ethiopian community, and to compare it with those of other groups and institutions.

The archives, and the analysis of these archives, are no longer separated according to their location or to their origin. The point of view expressed in the “Ethiopian” archives will no longer be published in a separate study, just as the point of view expressed in the “European” archives will no longer be published separately. On the contrary, thanks to tools such as the Open Jerusalem platform, the history of the Ethiopians of Jerusalem will henceforth be a history in which the point of view of local actors expressed in an archival document will be studied, examined and analyzed, considering the other points of view expressed in other documents. In brief, the history of the Ethiopians of Jerusalem, like that of other religious communities, will become a connected and inclusive history.

References

Ancel, Stéphane. 2018. “The Ethiopian Orthodox Community in Jerusalem: New Archives and Perspectives on Daily Life and Social Networks, 1840–1940”. In Ordinary Jerusalem 1840–1940, Opening New Archives, Revisiting a Global City, edited by A. Dalachanis and V. Lemire, 50–74. Leiden: Brill.

Ancel, Stéphane & Lemire, Vincent. 2017. “Across the Archives: New Sources on the Ethiopian Christian Community in Jerusalem, 1840-1940”. Jerusalem Quarterly, 71: 106-119.

Ancel, Stéphane, Krzyżanowska, Magdalena, Lemire, Vincent. 2022. The Monk on the Roof. The Story of an Ethiopian Manuscript Found in Jerusalem (1904). Leiden-Boston: Brill

Devine, Alexander. 1868. Abyssinia, Her History and Claims to the Holy Places in Jerusalem, the Correspondence Respecting the Abyssinians in Jerusalem (1850–1868) Presented to the House of Lords by the Command of Her Majesty. London: Harrison & Son.

Isaac, Ephaim. 1984. “Shelf List of Ethiopian Manuscripts in the Ethiopian Patriarchate of Jerusalem”. Rassegna di Studi Etiopici, 30–31 : 54–80.

Pedersen, Kirsten. 1983. The History of the Ethiopian Community in the Holy Land from the Time of Emperor Tewodros ii till 1974. Jerusalem: The Ecumenical Institute for Theological Research.

Pedersen, Kirsten. 1986. “The historiography of the Ethiopian monastery in Jerusalem”. In Ethiopian Studies. Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, edited by G. Goldenberg, 419–426. Rotterdam: A. Balkema.



Citer ce billet
Annalaura Turiano (2023, 26 octobre). Archival Data About the Ethiopian Orthodox Community in Jerusalem (1840-1948). Archival City. Consulté le 13 juin 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/beu0

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