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RARE PHOTO OF THE COPTIC METROPOLITAN OF ETHIOPIA, ABUNA MATTHEOS X, WITH EMPEROR HAILE SELASSI IN 1925

May 20, 2019

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Abuna Mattheos, Coptic Metropolitan of Ethiopia, with Ras Tafari Makonnen (Emperor Haile Selassie I later) in 1925

The above rare photograph by the Herman Ullstein Bild was taken in 1925. It shows the Ethiopian, Emperor Haile Selassie (r. 1930-1974) with other Ethiopian dignitaries at the performance of a religious dance in Addis Ababa. Accompanying the dignitaries is the Coptic Metropolitan of Ethiopia, Abuna Mattheos (Matthias; Matéwos), who is seated second from right.

We have shown Abuna Matthios X in a previous article in a piece of art, which goes back to before 1910, and depicts the Coptic Metropolitan accompanying Emperor Menelik II (r. 1889 – 1913) in his war against the invading Italians in 1896.

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Inset showing Mattheos X from the oil on canvass painting that dates to before 1910 and shown in the article mentioned above

The photograph of 1925 is witness to the accuracy of the Ethiopian artist who painted the oil on canvas picture before 1910 in depicting the features of Auna Mattheos X.

Mattheos was the one bishop who crowned Menelik II Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889, and courageously accompanied Menlik II in the First Italo-Ethiopian War, when the Italians were beaten badly by the valiant Ethiopian forces. Mattheos was not ordained metropolitan by the Coptic Patriarchate at the beginning. He was sent by Patriarch Cyril V (1874 – 1927) in 1881 as one of the four Coptic bishops to Ethiopia at the behest of Emperor Yohannes IV (1971 – 1889) with the three other bishops, Petros (1881 – 1921), Luqas (1881 – 1899/1900), and Marqos (1881 – 1883). It was Petros who was ordained metropolitan, while the others were sent to Ethiopian provinces, with Mattheos being allocated to Shoa (Shewa). When Menelik II emerged as victor after the death of Yohannes IV, taking the succession from Yohannes’ own son, Ras Mengesha Yohannes, Petros refused to crown him, citing allegiance to the house of Yohannes IV, which resulted in Menelik II imprisoning him, and getting Mattheos to crown him emperor. The royal elevation of Mattheos X to the metropolitan position by Menelik II was later confirmed by Patriarch Cyril V.

Mattheos X was later to play another major political role in Ethiopian history in 1916 when he excommunicated the successor of Menelik II, Lij Iyasu (1913 – 1916), who converted to Islam, something which led the Ethiopian nobility and army to rebel against him. The dethroning of Iyasu was followed by the reign of Empress Zewditu (1916 – 1930) and then that of the great Emperor Haile Selassie I (1930 – 1974).

When the above photograph was taken in 1925, Mattheos X was only one year away from death, for he died in 1926; Haile Selassie was then still the Regent (Enderase) of the Empire, sharing power with Zewditu, under the name of Ras Tafari Makonnen.

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