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03 Castles


Gondar, former capital of Ethiopia. The city is situated in northwestern Ethiopia, 32 km north of Lake T’ana, at an elevation of 2215 m. During unsettled periods between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries, Ethiopian rulers moved their royal camps frequently. King Fasil (Fasiledes) settled in Gondar and established it as a permanent capital in 1636. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the fortress-city of Fasil Ghebbi was the residence of the Ethiopian emperor Fasilides and his successors. After Fasil, successive kings continued building, improving the techniques and architectural style.

Before its decline in the late eighteenth century, the royal court had developed from a camp into a fortified compound called Fasil Ghebbi, consisting of six major building complexes surrounded by a 900 metres long wall. There are some twenty palaces and royal buildings and thirty churches in the area.

Fasil Ghebbi is included in the World Heritage List. The campaign also covers the royal Fasiledes Bath and the restoration of the celebrated painting in the Church of Debre Berhan Selassie.

The most famous buildings in the city lie in the Royal Enclosure, which include Fasilides castle, Iyasu’s Palace, Dawit’s Hall, a banqueting hall, stables, Mentewab’s Castle, a chancellery, library and three churches. Near the city lie Fasiladas’ Bath, home to an annual Timkat (epiphany) ceremony where it is blessed and then opened for bathing; the Qusquam complex, built by Empress Mentewab; the eighteenth century Ras Mikael Sehul’s Palace and the Debre Berhan Selassie Church which built by Emperor Eyasu II in the 17th Century. The walls depict biblical scenes and saints and the ceiling is covered with the faces of hundreds of angels.

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