Prior to the mid-16th century, Ethiopian illuminated Gospels contained an extensive prefatory cycle illustrating the life of Christ. Amongst these elaborately illustrated prefatory cycles, the only scene that consistently appeared across an opening is Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem. This particular miniature always occupies a prominent placement within the prefatory imagery. Although
much of the iconography of the miniature remains consistent in these medieval illuminated manuscripts, the visual representation of the physical space of Jerusalem varies across the different manuscripts. In this paper, I will examine the significance of the prominence accorded to the scene of Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem in medieval Ethiopian illuminated manuscripts and analyze the ways in which the miniature evokes both the physical and symbolic space of Jerusalem. My analysis will demonstrate how the structure of the codex is employed in order to craft a carefully constructed and meaningful visual program. This paper attempts to shed light on the ways in which Ethiopia actively participated in the wider world of medieval Christian iconographic tradition while remaining faithful to the visual articulation of local religious and cultural concerns.
Meseret Oldjira, Princeton University