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Manuscript - Homilies on the Archangel Michael

Homilies on the Archangel Michael

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Ethiopia (made)

  • Date:

    late 18th century - early 19th century

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    National Art Library

This manuscript contains a compilation of homilies for 12 months, a text which was established in the late 17th century. It was commissioned by an individual called Särtsä Mikaél who is represented standing to the right of St Michael on f. 58v. To the left of St Michael is his wife (whose name has been erased), and below are their two children. Särtsä Mikaél would have been interested in having this text, as St Michael was his patron saint. The first miniature in the manuscript shows a half-length portrait of the Virgin and Child (f. 1v).

Physical description

83 parchment leaves, with illuminations.
Written in Ge'ez (Ethiopic).
Volume (Reid 79) with small booklet (Reid 79/1) sewn in. The booklet (a single bifolium) contains prayers relating to the Virgin and Child.
Contains two miniatures and twelve decorative head-pieces.
Bound in Ethiopia; square-cut wooden boards covered in leather stained brown; sewn on five sewing stations in the Ethiopian manner; knotted leather thong sewn on as end-bands.

Place of Origin

Ethiopia (made)


late 18th century - early 19th century


Length: 266 mm

Object history note

Commissioned by Särtsä Mikaél. Later owned by Wäldä Hanna.

Descriptive line

Manuscript, 'Homilies on the Archangel Michael', Ethiopia, late 18th century or early 19th century.

Labels and date

Maqdala 1868 display, 5 April 2018 - 30 June 2019

Ethiopian manuscripts | የኢትዮጵያ እጅ ጽሁፍ

Ethiopia (ኢትዮጵያ) is one of the world’s first Christian nations. The Kingdom of Aksum (አክሱም) in northern Ethiopia adopted the religion in around AD 330. These manuscripts are written in Ge’ez, the sacred language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The books contain prayers and hymns, while the protective scroll would have hung above its owner’s bed to ward off diseases and evil spirits. The manuscripts were first taken from the city of Gondar by Emperor Tewodros, who planned to build his own church at Maqdala. They were among the artefacts later seized by the British.

Book of homilies on the Archangel Michael | የሊቀ መለአክት ቅዱስ ሚካኤል ድርሳነ መጸሀፍ
Probably made in Gondar (ጎንደር), Ethiopia, around 1560
Illustrated parchment
Given to the V&A by George Reid with his collection in 1903
NAL: MSL/1903/2081

At my church, the prayer book is written in Ge’ez and Amharic, and both are read by the Father. The beauty of handwritten words on handmade paper is not lost through age. I benefit from these long traditions that have served many Ethiopian generations.
- Almaz Tesfaye, V&A Estates Services, member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church

Sacred texts of Ethiopia date back to the 4th century AD, painstakingly transcribed and illuminated by monks and religious scholars on goatskin parchment. Some still exist today, unseen by public eyes in remote monasteries and churches of the ancient realm.
- Shango Baku, Rastafari actor, writer and activist<#caret> [5 April 2018 - 30 June 2019]




National Art Library; Books; Manuscripts; Bookbinding; Africa; Religion; Christianity

Production Type



National Art Library

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