Italian Quest for the Ark of Covenant in Ethiopia

Ark of Covenant is a lost artefact that was mentioned in the Ten Commandments. It was last mentioned to have existed about 2400 years ago. It was written that the Covenant of Ark was taken away and then destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar when Jerusalem was attacked by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Despite the writings there are many who continue to believe that the Ark of Covenant exists till date.

Replica of Ark of the Covenant


One theory for the probable existence of Ark of Covenant is that it is still secured in Ethiopia. The tale of the Ark coming to Ethiopia starts with Menelik I who was the son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba. Menelik I was educated in Jerusalem till he was 19 years of age. When Menelik was about to return to Ethiopia King Solomon gave him a copy of the Ark for prayer. In Ethiopia there was no holy artefact and it was far away from the Temple of Jerusalem.  But Menelik I felt the sanctity of the Ark was being wasted in Jerusalem as it was placed in the Pagan Temple built to please the wives of Solomon. So, he and his followers swiped the original Ark for the replica when the priests were drunk after a festivity. The real Ark of Covenant soon arrived to Ethiopia and was placed in a monastery in Lake Tana. It stayed here for more than 800 years. It was later moved to the Church of Saint Mary of Zion in Axum, Ethiopia. From those times till date the church has only one monk who is known as the “Guardian of the Ark”. This sacred position is provided for life. This monk and other monks in Axum are ready to give their lives in protection of the Ark. Only the Guardian is provided the luxury of viewing the Ark and regardless of wealth, position no one else can ever view this sacred artefact.

Ark of the Covenant was placed in Church of Saint Mary of Zion, Axum


In the 19th century Ethiopia was one of the few African countries that were free from European domination. There had been many attempts by Italy but these battles always ended in wins for the Ethiopians. In 1896 about 14,500 Italian soldiers had to suffer a defeat in Adwa, Ethiopia. With intent for revenge Mussolini sent newly mechanised legions under the command of Field Marshal Rodolfo Graziani. Soldiers crossed the borders of Italian Somaliland and Eritrea in October 3, 1935. The troops soon swept across Ethiopia and despite protests from the League of Nations.


Ethiopian Troops were routed by the mechanized Italian army

Some scholars feel that the military campaign launched by Italy had blessings of Vatican. There were enough reasons for Vatican to back this campaign too. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church had all the rights to call itself seat of original Christian faith. The Church also refused to acknowledge Pope Pius XI as the supreme leader of Christian faith. The Pope kept numb even when there were criticisms from all parts. This invasion was also supported by the Pope as Ethiopia had one of the major religious artefacts – Ark of the Covenant. Presence of this artefact in Ethiopia posed a competition for Vatican’s supremacy.


Bones of Ethiopian monks killed during Italian occupation

Though there are no official records confirming the search of Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia by the Italian troops, but the Italians did search for the national treasures. The great Steele (or Obelisk) was transported and reinstated in Rome. But in the long history of the Ark it had been shifted to various places for safe keeping. It had stayed near Lake Tana for over 800 years and then shifted to Axum in 333. It was also shifted to Gonder, Zeway Islands, Siemen Mountain caves in Shewa and other places. Italian intelligence had confirmed news that that the Ark had been shifted to Axum during Italian occupation. Regardless of the location Italians killed over 300 monks, nuns and clergy to know the exact location of the Ark. To protect the real artefact Ethiopians had built various replicas and they were scattered all over the country. It was not easy for the Italians to find the real one. Few Italian officials were reported to have searched for this holy artefact. But none of them were successful.


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6 thoughts on “Italian Quest for the Ark of Covenant in Ethiopia

  1. The Ark has been sought after since it was last seen being taken to Babylon, from the Temple of Solomon.

    • only by speculation, there’s not a single evidence in the bible, torah, talmud or history that nebuchadnezzar, or any member from the babylon invasion ever get a hold, or even saw the Ark, the evidence only shows that they did get a hold of the artefacts used by the priests.

  2. What text or account states that the Arc of the Covenant was taken away and destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar? As far as I’ve understood it, Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem and sacked the Temple of Solomon, stealing all the gold and sacred vessels of the temple. Nowhere have I seen any mention of the Ark of the Covenant being among the stolen vessels, or having been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Do you care to share your sources?

  3. Incredible that i never thought of italys invasion as a quest for the ark.Yet it was so clear!who would quasi-pagan Nazi Germany want a Jewish artifact?.why wouldn’t catholic fascist Italy home of the Vatican want the ark taken from a land which could have been a rival for the loyalty of Catholics everywhere?

  4. If there is such a “ark” what makes the Ethiopians, with all the rumored copies they made, think that after all these centuries they might have the real one? Where did this primitive tribe acquire the materials to make fake ones that would fool the Italians? To many Christians the “ark” is within us wherein we hold the “covenant” with God; “believer arks” if you will.

  5. Why in the profound series on Africa by Dr. Henry Gates, does he not mention once that the Ark of the Covenant was instrumental in the battle of at Adwa? I am speechless that he makes no mention of it.

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