Emperor Yekonu Amlak

His Imperial Majesty Emperor Yekonu Amlak
His Imperial Majesty Emperor Yekonu Amlak

In the year 1270 Ethiopia went through a monumental change. After a brief war, the last of the Zagwe Emperors, Harbe II, was convinced by St. Tekle Haimanot, the founder of Debre Libanos Monastery (thus the first Echege of the Ethiopian OrthodoxChurch) to relinquish the throne in favor of Yekonu Amlak, a direct descendant of the last Axumite Emperor Anbassa Widim. Yekonu Amlak had raised an ever increasing army, and large sections of the country were rallying to the Solomonic banner. The Church recognized the legitimacy of the Solomonic claimant, and yet did not want to see humiliation and harm come to the Zagwe Emperor. The Zagwes had been regarded as saintly and pious children of the Church, so the Church wished to protect them. Emperor Harbe II was convinced by St. Tekle Haimanot to relinquish the throne, and retired to a monastery. The Solomonic dynasty was thus restored. In the act of settlement, Yekonu Amlak agreed to grant the title of Wagshum and rule overĀ the district of Wag to the heirs of the Zagwe Emperors. The Wagshums were guaranteed the right to be seated in the presence of the Emperor (provided he himself was seated), the right to have a silver throne a step below the Emperor’s gold throne, and the right to have the negarit war drum beaten for them just as it was beaten for the Solomonic Emperor. Yekonu Amlak was crownedat Debre Birhan in Shewa, and was based there. His relationship with the Church was very close due to the role of Saint Tekle Haimanot in convincing Harbe II to abdicate in his favor. Yekonu Amlak handed over to the church, vast land holdings, starting a tradtion continued by his decendents that ended up making the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church the largest single land owner in the Empire. He consolidated his rule over the northern highlands and enforced Imperial hegemony over the emerging Islamic ministates in the Empire and the surrounding lowlands. Chief among these, he ssubjugatedthe Sultanate of Ifat. Yekonu Amlak died in 1285.

Debre Libanos Monastery
The Debre Libanos Monastery as it appears today

St. Tekle Haimanot who founded this Monastery was the moving force behind the Solomonic Restoration, and the assumption of the throne by Yekonu Amlak.