Gabra Manfas Qeddus, Ethiopian Hermit

“Gabra Manfas Qeddus (Amharic: ጋብራ ማንፋስ ቀድዱስ; also familiarly called Abo) was an Ethiopian Christian saint, and the founder of the monastery of Zuqualla. The fifth day of every month in the Ethiopian calendar is dedicated to this saint. One text reports Gabra Manfas Qeddus lived 562 years, 300 of them in Egypt, while another attributes him a life of 362 years He was born in Egypt to noble parents, named Simon and Eklesia. Eklesia, according to legend, came from the tribe of Benjamin of ancient Israel. Eklesia and Simon are said to have been barren for 30 years. The day of Gabra’s conception and the date of his birth are said to coincide with those of Jesus Christ.
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Ethiopian, 17th century painted canvas depicting St Gabra Manfas Qeddus known as Abo, he was founder of the monastery of Zuqualla and reputedly lived for 362 years.

Forty days after his birth, the baptism of Gabra Manfas Qeddus was celebrated with a banquet attended by the Roman emperor. He developed traits common to all prodigious children. By the age of two, tradition reports that he was already wise. When he was three years old, God sent his archangel Gabriel to the child, to take him into the desert and put him into the custody of the monk Zamada Berhan, leaving his parents and nurse in despair. There he was ordained priest and became an abbot.

For a time Gabra remained in the desert performing miracles, while people from remote countries visited him. Then a second time God sent Gabriel to take Gabra deeper into the desert, and to have him live amongst 60 lions and 60 leopards. While there, Gabra Manfas Qeddus developed thick white hair covering all his body like a coat. He was able to appease the wild beasts, and in this respect resembled the figure of Daniel from the Old Testament. As he was able to talk to the animals, he may also be compared to saint Francis of Assisi.
In Ethiopian iconography, Qeddus is commonly depicted in full view standing upright, covered by his hair from top to toe, while lions and leopards rest at his feet.

Gabra Manfas Qeddus set out for a journey into the Holy Land. He visited all the holy places, including Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth and the river Jordan. God incited him to go to Gabaon, where the devil assaulted him with wild beasts. Attacked by a serpent, Gabra won the battle, and the serpent was petrified by him. Gabra Manfas Qeddus begged the Lord to make him invisible, so as to prevent humans and supernatural beings alike from recognizing him and putting him to the test.

When Gabra Manfrus Qeddus was 300 years of age, the Lord ordered him to go to Ethiopia to preach to the people there. He travelled there on a winged chariot, accompanied by his leopards and lions. In Ethiopia he founded the monastery of Zuqualla, an extinct volcano, which is in the southern part of the former province of Shewa (now in Ada’a Chukala woreda). Zuqualla is an icon for the mountain of Tabor in the Holy Land.

Some texts say that, before establishing his monastery, Gabra Manfas Qeddus was tempted by demons and devils for a period of hundred years, after which time the Lord exempted the Ethiopians from sin. Gabra left Zuqualla to wander to Kabd in order to stare at the heavens for seven months without blinking. The devil, in the shape of a raven, came to pick out his eyes. But Manfas Qeddus was cured by the archangels Gabriel and Michael, who brought him back to Zuqualla.
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Saint Gabre Manfus Kiddus with the wild beasts to whom he preached. When he found a bird (shown flying perilously close to his face) dying of thirst, he allowed it to drink water from his eye: http://www.betsyporter.com/Ethiopia.html

Some manuscripts recount a visit to heaven, where Gabra Manfas Qeddus was kissed by the Holy Trinity. While he was still on his way back from heaven, three other saints arrived in Kabd to visit him — Samuel of Waldebba, Anbas of Hazalo, and Benyam of lower Begemder — who were all accompanied by lions. As soon as the lions and leopards of Gabra Manfas Qeddus noticed their fellow creatures, though, they devoured them. Nothing was left of them when Manfas Qeddus eventually arrived on the scene. When Gabra ordered his animals to spit out the remains of their meal, the pets of the saints reappeared sound and healthy.

Three times a year Gabra Manfas Qeddus returned to the Holy Land to receive Holy Communion: on Christmas Day, on the day of Jesus’ baptism, and on Good Friday. There he spoke Hebrew but also all the languages of the world, a characteristic associated with the story of the tower of Babel.

He died on a Sunday, on the 5th of Maggabit. He was lying on the floor with his arms outspread, in the position of Jesus on the cross.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabra_Manfas_Qeddus
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This cloth icon represents the popular saint Abba Gabra Manfas Queddus, who died around 1433. He was an Ethiopian hermit monk sent by God to live in the desert among sixty lions and sixty leopards. Above the head of the monk is text written in the Orthodox Ge’ez script. African Art in the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art
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The monastery on Mount Zuqualla (also spelled Zuquala or Chukala), said to have been founded by St Gebre Manfas on the site of a hermitage used by Saint Mercurius, was destroyed, and a church at the foot of the mountain looted, by Imam Ahmad Gragn in 1531; two churches were later built at the monastery, one dedicated to St Gebre Menfas built by Menelik II in 1880 and designed by the Italian Sebastian Castagna, and the other dedicated to Kidane Mihret built during the reign of Haile Selassie. Various other holy sites are found around the mountain, mostly rock formations, while the monastery is the site of a biannual festival.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Zuqualla
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For Ethiopian Monastic life, see http://www.ethiopianorthodoxchurch.info/MonasticLife.html

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One Response to “Gabra Manfas Qeddus, Ethiopian Hermit”

  1. […] This cloth icon represents the popular saint Abba Gabra Manfas Queddus, who died around 1433. He was an Ethiopian hermit monk sent by God to live in the desert among sixty lions and sixty leopards. Above the head of the monk is text written in the Orthodox Ge’ez script. African Art in the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art The monastery on Mount Zuqualla (also spelled Zuquala or Chukala), said to have been founded by St Gebre Manfas on the site of a hermitage used by Saint Mercurius, was destroyed, and a church at the foot of the mountain looted, by Imam Ahmad Gragn in 1531; two churches were later built at the monastery, one dedicated to St Gebre Menfas built by Menelik II in 1880 and designed by the Italian Sebastian Castagna, and the other dedicated to Kidane Mihret built during the reign of Haile Selassie. Various other holy sites are found around the mountain, mostly rock formations, while the monastery is the site of a biannual festival. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Zuqualla Source : citydesert […]

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