Visiting the Desert Fathers of Ethiopia

The interesting blog, Inner Light Productions – – publishes a special feature on Ethiopian monasticism and eremiticism:

“I have now visited four hermitages in Ethiopia. Normally, monks would not allow lay people to visit their homes, but they are more willing to relent (but not always!) when they see that the visitor is sincerely interested in the monastic life. In each of the hermitages, belongings were scant: a rough bed, sometimes a goat skin on the floor but at other times a simple construction; an icon and books, but very limited to both and by no means “collections” of either; one or two garments, the primary one being a blanket that is wrapped around the body as an outer garment with the monastic garment underneath and a hat denoting their status as a monk; and perhaps a small stool and a tea kettle. There is usually little else at hand. One hermitage I visited was a round hut, or “tukul” as they are called in Ethiopia, that was scarcely five feet in diameter. Once entering, you could either sit down or lay down, but nothing else. The largest one I saw was the one on Lake Tana and it was probably ten feet in diameter and contained only a goat skin, a blanket, a stool, a prayer book and gospel, a paper icon on the wall, and a tea kettle.
ethiopian hermitage
In Egypt today, the monasteries are all cenobitic, but most of them will have a few hermits living outside the monasteries in the fashion of the Desert Fathers. But hermits are not so common in Egypt as they once were. In Ethiopia, though, hermits are still very common and one even sees itinerant monks and nuns on the roads and byways of almost every region of the country. These men and women have no home, but sleep in the open, in churches, or anywhere they are invited to lay their heads as they wander the country, blessing people and offering prayers, or simply living the monastic life as they know it. These monks will usually have a small blessing cross they carry in a leather pouch under their garments that is readily produced to give a blessing to the desiring Christian, as well as a Gospel they carry in a leather bag around the neck. Such monks have all but disappeared in the rest of the world, even though they were once common in all Christian lands.”
hermitage ethiopia
The blog states: Selections from the Desert Fathers of the Early Church are posted here every Sunday and Wednesday, as well as links to other information on Eastern Orthodox spirituality and photographs of the monastic life. You will find especially rich resources here from these early saints on prayer, especially the “Jesus Prayer.” It is our hope that you will find these writings both inspirational and helpful in your day-to-day life and they will lead you to other sources for deeper reading and study.
Monasticism egypt
The blog is published by the noted photographer, Michael McClellan – – “Concentrating primarily – but not entirely – on religious subjects, McClellan seeks to convey through his images something of the essence of the spirituality that drives people throughout the ages to seek solitude, build edifices of faith, produce art that speaks of spiritual themes, and live simple lives in harmony with their environment.” He is the author/photographer of “Monasticism in Egypt: Images and Words of the Desert Fathers “ (2011):


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