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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Monasteries of the Blue Nile: The Circular World of Africa
Author:Yamagata, Takao
Year:1996
Periodical:Senri Ethnological Studies
Issue:43
Pages:233-254
Language:English
Geographic term:Ethiopia
Subjects:religious buildings
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Abstract:While the construction of the Coptic Church of Egypt is basilican in style and monks' cells develop as a cluster surrounded by high castle-like walls, that of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is circular and the monks' huts display an almost totally scattered arrangement, with the area of each hut clearly demarcated from the others by high fences or hedges. The author considers what historical facts and experiences lie behind these differences, in view of the communication between the two churches for almost a millennium from the fourth century. Starting point is a description of the Ura-Kindanemeret and Kebran Gabriel monasteries at Lake Tana, Ethiopia, and the author's realization that the Lake Tana monasteries as a whole can be regarded as a 'community' and likened to the villages scattered across the Ethiopian highlands. With this in mind, he discusses the symbolism of the round African house as exemplified by the circular houses of the Turkana of northwestern Kenya. He notes that the spatial order of both the circular residence and the circular church reflects three basic points: centripetalism, or centrism; self-completeness, or individualism; and dispersion, or isolationism; and that the relationship between the centre and the periphery is a dynamic one. Bibliogr., notes.
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