14 February 2009, EMF – The blaze, which started early yesterday, burned down Zegie Giorgis, one of Ethiopian ancient churches in Tana Island. Zegie Giorgis was one of the most famous monasteries in Tana. The church, which was built in 1292, featured priceless historical documents and paintings.
The fire could not have been contained because the church is located in the island and far from Bahir Dar fire station. So it seems that the fire raged unabated. Crowds gathered and watched in horror as the flames tore through the roof of the church, and destroyed the interior, gutting historical items dating back to 13th century. At last, the Ethiopian Air Force crew successfully controlled the fire from expanding to other nearby churches.
The Bishop of the region, Abune Bernabas said: “It’s destroyed. No conclusions had been reached about the cause and that it would be unwise to jump to conclusions. Human and God’s judgment is different. Let us give the judgment to the almighty God.”
The various entities are working with the parish priest and the local community to determine the future of the church. Today, the church also requested help for the restoration.
EMF reporter from Ethiopia added, “most of historical document and the ‘tabot’ (covenant) are hidden underground, and excavation has been started today”.
There are 37 islands on the source of Nile River, Lake Tana and 30 of them have churches and monasteries of considerable historical and cultural interest. The 13th century Monastery of ZegieGiorgis was one of the monasteries, which most frequently used to be visited by tourists. Zegie is located in north-west Ethiopia about 15 kilometers from Bahir Dar by boat or 32 kilometers by road during the dry season.