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This article tries to analyse the question of Prester John from the Ethiopian point of view in determining the role of the apocalyptic texts especially produced in Egypt in the development of the Ethiopian literature and more specifically in the writing of the Life of King Yemrehanna Krestos. The myth of Prester John did not take an Ethiopian king as a model, but the Ethiopian kingship ideology as well as the myth of Prester John was using the same apocalyptic texts, the same literary sources, to develop themselves.

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The Life of King Yemrehanna Krestos was written many years after his death, most probably in the 15th century. This hagiographical text is atypical in the Ethiopian literature as it describes a king as a saint and as a priest while the majority of the lives of saints are dedicated to monks.

The priesthood of the king is depicted as a real office and not as a symbolic one. This quality is rare in the Ethiopian kingship.


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The idea of a priestly kingship in Ethiopia has a long history. In the short paragraph dedicated to Ethiopia, the king is described as a priest, celebrating the Eucharist.

It has already been shown that this information is also given with exactly the same words for the Nubian king so that it is difficult to determine which of the two kingships was concerned and if this priestly kingship is an historical fact. To come back to King Yemrehanna Krestos, we must try to explain why this king is depicted as a priest.

The Kingdom of Prester John, an annotated slideshow!

Is it a hagiographical topos? But this quality is so rare that we can doubt it could be a topos.

Let's play EU4 as Coptic Ethiopia - Prester John - ep3

The Life of the King gives some elements of explanation. In many episodes of the Life of King Yemrehanna Krestos we can find references to the patriarch of Alexandria, to the sultan of Egypt or Jerusalem.

In these episodes, the Ethiopian king is presented as the one who receives the homage of these great figures. Afterwards, the patriarch Cyril explained that the divine election of Ethiopia can be deduced from three testimonies. The first one is linked to the Easter vigil in Jerusalem when the sacred fire descends in the church of the Resurrection. According to the Life of Yemrehanna Krestos, it happened one year that only the lamp of the Ethiopian clerics was miraculously started by the sacred fire.

Becoming jealous, the monks of the other Churches decided to expel the Ethiopians. But the year after none of the lamps were alighted.

Eutopia: The Gnostic Land of Prester John. A Novella

Prester John , also called Presbyter John or John the Elder , legendary Christian ruler of the East, popularized in medieval chronicles and traditions as a hoped-for ally against the Muslims. Believed to be a Nestorian i. The legend arose during the period of the Crusades late 11th—13th century , when European Christians hoped to regain the Holy Land Palestine from the Muslims.

In Jerusalem had been conquered by the Seljuq Turks.

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This King David probably was none other than Genghis Khan. Because of rumours, lack of reliable information, or wishful thinking on the part of European Christians, the historical events, personages of the period, and geographical areas involved became interwoven into the legend of Prester John.

A literary fiction, the letter was in Latin and was translated into various languages, including Hebrew and Old Slavonic. The letter notes that John is the guardian of the shrine of St. Thomas , the apostle to India, at Mylapore now in Chennai , India. Author: Denise Aigle. Add to Cart. Have an Access Token? Enter your access token to activate and access content online. Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token. Have Institutional Access? Forgot your password?

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