Among all the different narratives, the Ethiopian Legend – where Sheba’s name becomes Makeda – is the richest and the most convincing. It appears in the ‘Glory of Kings’ (the Kebra Negast), the Ethiopian national saga written in the 14th century.
Christianity came to the Axumite Kingdom early in the 4th century when two Christian youths from Syria, Frumentius and Adesius, landed from a ship on the Axumite coast. During Ezana’s rule Frumentius was appointed the Kingdom’s first Archbishop, after which the Ethiopian Orthodox Church continued to recruit Axumites to the Christian faith.
The oldest church in Africa, south of the Sahara, is the first St Mary of Zion Church, originally built around the 4th century. Emperor Fasilidas replaced it with a newer church around 1635 which is still a place of active worship, notable for its crenellated, fortress-like walls.
The modern Chapel next to St Mary of Zion church is said to contain the sacred Ark of the Covenant, but no one except the Orthodox priest who serves as the chapel’s custodian is allowed to enter the building.
Still accessible today are underground vaults believed to be the tombs of the 5th century King Kaleb and his son, King Gabre Meske!’ Steep steps made of large blocks of neatly-carved stone, which fit together precisely without any mortar to hold them in place, lead down to a labyrinth of galleries containing what appear to be coffins. Coins minted in the reign of King Kaleb are among the thousands of Axumite gold, silver, and bronze coins unearthed since that period.