Gondar is the city of castles built during the reign of Emperor Fasilidas (1632-1667) and was once the capital of Ethiopia. During this time it was an important administrative, commercial, religious and cultural centre and noted for the skill of its craftsmen. The castles echo a time of grandeur and majesty.
Gondar has a number of fine churches to visit, which house biblical paintings. Perhaps the finest of the Gondarine Churches is that of Debre Birhan Selassie or ‘Trinity at the Mount of Light’. Whilst having fascinating architectural merit, it is the many paintings inside that create the greatest interest.
The ceilings are decorated with 80 beautiful winged angels, probably one of the most important and singly recognized examples of ecclesiastical art in Ethiopia. The walls of the church are also painted with biblical scenes, with each wall having a separate theme: the northern wall has paintings of the saints; the southern wall has scenes of the life of Christ; there is a painting on the wall to the left of the main door of the devil surrounded in flames and next to this same door, is the painting of the devil leading a captive, Mohammed. Although these paitings are attributed to the 17th century artist, Haile Meskel, it is considered that several artists were involved, (as did the work of Michaelangelo). The majority of the paintings were painted during the rule of Egwala Tsion (1801-17). There is a painting of him prostrating himself before the cross.
Around 30 minutes before sunset, there is beautiful light from the rays of the sun that penetrate the interior of the church enhancing the spiritual atmosphere and creating a great opportunity for photographs as using flash photography is quite rightly forbidden.
Gondar also has a colourful market, which should be visited. Half a mile north of Gondar, lies the tiny village of Wolleka, formerly inhabited by the Falashas, or Judaic Ethiopians. Very few Falashas remain in Ethiopia, after the mass exodus to Israel in 1991. Those that do remain, continue to make figurines out of black or red pottery. There is a great demand for the increasingly rare original pottery.