Abuna Aregawi

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Abuna Aregawi
Venerated in Ethiopian Orthodox Church

Abuna Aregawi (also called Za-Mika'el 'Aragawi) was a sixth-century Syrian monk, whom tradition holds founded the monastery Debre Damo, said to have been commissioned by Emperor Gebre Mesqel. He is one of the Nine Saints of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church who claims he came from various parts of the Roman Empire to escape persecution after the Council of Chalcedon (451). The Nine Saints, Abba 'Afsé, Abba 'Aléf, Abba Gärima, Abba Guba, Abba Liqanos, Abba Pantelewon, Abba Sähma, Abba Yäm'ata and Abba Zä-Mika'él 'Arägawi were learned monks who revitalized Christianity in Ethiopia, and to whom the Ge'ez version of the New Testament is attributed.

After spending twelve years at the court of king Ella Amida of Axum, he set out with his companion the nun Edna to found Debre Damo. Later in his life, king Kaleb is said to have sought his advice before setting out to south Arabia against the Jewish king Dhu Nuwas.[1]

God provided a large snake to aid him in climbing the amba, or steep-sided mountain, so he could build Debre Damo. As David Buxton recounts the story, "when Abba Aragawi, the founder of the monastery, came to the foot of the cliff a great serpent appeared. As St Michael stood by to give directions, the serpent folded Abba Arawi in his coils and drew him to the top of the mountain." Abba Aregawi is a saint currently canonized by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, as well as by the Ethiopian Catholic Church, as well as the Eritrean Orthodox Church. As one of the famous monks out of the nine Ethiopian Saints he was responsible for creating many monasteries and churches and was the main force behind installing monasticism in Ethiopia [2]


  1. ^ Biography of Zä-Mika'él 'Arägawi from The Dictionary of Ethiopian Biography Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ David Buxton, Travels in Ethiopia, second edition (London: Benn, 1957), p. 126

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