Eritrean Orthodox Church
Georgis Orthodox Church - Gejeret Asmara Eritrea.
Much of what is practiced in the Orthodox church today has been in practice for hundreds of years and stem from passages found in the Bible. If you have
tried to time your visits to correspond with a church service and found the doors locked, it is probably because you have attempted this excursion too late in the day. Church services are held early every Sunday morning (6 am) and last for two hours. After this service the church is locked.
During Lent, the Church is open every day, for longer periods (4
am-22:30pm) with the church service held at noon. Followers fast during the 60 day Lenten period. No dairy
products, meats or eggs are eaten. For the rest of the year, and for those adhering strictly to religious doctrine, Wednesdays and Fridays are observed as "minor" fasting days. Abstinence from dairy products, meat and eggs is
practiced but fish can be eaten.
The congregation is predominantly women. Some women will be found worshipping inside a church, others prefer the space and solitude of the church grounds.
Mariam Orthodox Cathedral - Asmara Eritrea.
The Orthodox church in Eritrea is often rectangular in shape but round ones can also be found. What is important is that the congregation faces east towards the section within the church that holds the
talbot, the symbolic original Ten Commandments. This area is the most holy of the areas and is sealed off from all but the priests of the church. Each church is named after a patron saint. The saint's name day is celebrated each month by the church congregation and once a year in a special festival.
Visitors are heartily encouraged to visit an Orthodox church. Members are proud of their church and are warm in their welcome. Shoes must be removed before entering the church and can be left at the church door or carried. Inside
the church, you will find lovely murals of the apostles, scenes from the life
of Christ, and stories from the Old and New Testament. The wealthier the congregation or church,
the more paintings one finds on the walls. Presents of rugs, clocks, and saints'
pictures may adorn the sanctuary. There is a noticeable absence of chairs or pews as one is either kneeling in worship or standing leaning on long teed-off sticks. In times past the service was in Ge'ez, today it is in
the secular language of Tigrigna. Note that the men stand on the left hand side
of the church and the women on the right.
Every church hosts a yearly religious festival, adding to the
Orthodox holidays. The dates of some of these festivals and holidays are listed here.
Festival of the Saint Georgis Orthodox Church in Gejeret area of Asmara.
Festival of the Saint Michael Orthodox Church in the Sanita area of Asmara.
2009 Festival of
the Nda Mariam Orthodox Cathedral of Asmara.
Michael Orthodox Church Festival - Asmara Eritrea.
Visitors to the Orthodox monasteries (The most popular are Debre
Bizen near Nefasit, Debre Sina near Elabered and Debre Libanos near Senafe)
have to obtain permission from the headquarters of the Patriarchate
of the Orthodox church of Eritrea.
At some monasteries only males are allowed. You should be
reasonably fit for the visit, as their locations are often in remote and hard to
access places. One should be well prepared for these hikes that will take a few
hours. But it is well worth the climb as it affords stunning views, and a good
taste of religious history.
My hike to Debre Bizen