Did you ever want to know what happened to the Ark of the Covenant? According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it is kept in a small chapel on the compound of the Maryam of Tsion Church. Not to be seen by anyone except the guardian monk. After being appointed for this Holy job, he will spend the rest of his life guarding the Ark.

Axum has been the capital of the ancient Axumite Empire and it is the place where facts and legends still waiting to be unraveled.  Legends go back to the time of the Queen of Sheba (known as Makeda in Ethiopia) and King Solomon, around 1000 BC. On record, it is first mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea in the first century AD. It is believed not more than 20% of the old town is excavated, much is unknown. The archeological sites of Axum have been declared a World Heritage Site.

The Maryam of Tsion Churches

Maryam Tsion church Axum

The Maryam of Tsion Churches are considered the most important churches in Ethiopia. The original one is believed to be built during the time of King Ezana, the first Christian king of Ethiopia. At the moment you find a new church built in the 1950s and an old church (only men allowed inside) build in the 17th century.

Chapel with the Ark of the Covenant

Menelik I is believed to be the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. When he visited his father the Ark of the Covenant went missing. It has been taken to Ethiopia. Read all about it in the Kebra Nagast, the glory of the kings.

The biggest annual festival celebrated in Axum, Hidar Tsion, is connected to the presence of the Ark of the Covenant. This very colorful festival attracts thousands of pilgrims from all over Ethiopia. Another big annual festival celebrated in Axum is Hoseana or Palm Sunday.

Ark of Covenant chapel Axum

Axum and Saint Maryam (Mary)

Mehelela procession Axum

Every first 7 days of the month according to the Ethiopian calendar there is an early morning procession to honor Maryam Tsion. This very colorful event is known as Mehelela and takes you back to biblical times. The Tabot (replica of the Ark of the Covenant) is taken out of the Makdas (holy of holiest) and the procession finds its way around the compound of the Maryam of Tsion Churches.

The Stelae of Axum

Hundreds of monolithic stelae are found in and around Axum. They are presumed to be grave markers and a few tombs have been excavated. The biggest and most decorated stelae are found at the main stelae field, among them the recently returned Stele from Rome. The fallen Great Stele is one of the largest single piece of stone (520 tonnes) ever worked on in human history.

Stele in Axum