Emperor Susenyos the Catholic (part 3)

Susenyos was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia at Keranio(Calvary) Medhane Alem (Church of the Savior of the World) in Gojjam with the additional name of Siltan Seged around 1507. Almost immediately, the new Emperor had a huge public relations problem. He was widely regarded as responsible for the death of the Archbishop Abune Petros. In an attempt to win over some of his opponents, the Emperor sent messages to the Dowager Empress Mariam Senna, asking for forgiveness for any wrongs he might have committed against her. She is said to have replied “Did you not grow up in my house just as Ze Dingel and Yacob grew up in my house? Of course I forgive you, but only if you promise to leave the nobles of Yacob in peace with their properties and their titles, and if you promise to bury me at the Monastery of Mahdere Mariam which I have built, upon my death.” Emperor Susenyos agreed to do as she asked. Emperor Yacob’s loyalists then submitted to Susenyos. The Emperor then had the long neglected bones of his beloved cousin, Emperor Ze Dingel brought in state to the island monastery of Daga Estifanos on lake Tana and buried him with great pomp. Although this won the Emperor new friends, and he was reconciled with the Dowager Empress, it did not change the fact that the clergy and most of the country regarded Susenyos as the murderer of the Archbishop, a crime unequaled in the history of the Christian Empire in their eyes. To strengthen his hold on the heart of the Empire, the new Emperor summoned many prominent Oromo allies from Shewa and elsewhere to come and settle in Gojjam, Beghemidir and Amhara, granting them estates and property, granting them titles and access to his court and the halls of power. Most shocking to the court and the clergy was his granting to his new Oromo friends, lands that had previously been granted to the Monastery of Debre Semaitat (House of Martyrs) by Emperor Gelawdiwos, and to Mahidere Mariam Monastery by Empress Silus Haila.

The Emperor became increasingly close to the Spanish and Portuguese clerics and missionaries at his court. He granted them land to build a church in Dembia. From the established Catholic monastery at Fremona, he summoned the renouned Portuguese priest, Father Pero Paez, and had him settle at the new Imperial Palace that was established at Danqaz. The Emperor even took Paez and a delegation of the Catholic clergy with him to Axum when he went for his formal coronation as Emperor. Paez was a Jesuit priest, and the members of the Society of Jesus were very active in seeking converts among the highest nobility and the Imperial family itself. Because of Paez’s closeness to the Emperor, the Jesuits now enjoyed a level of access and influence at court that was causing pause to the Orthodox clergy. As the King of Spain had succeeded to the Portuguese throne as well, the Emperor of Ethiopia now decided to send a letter of freindship to King Phillip III and to Pope Paul V. The letters were sent in the care of none other than the Emperor’s good friend, the Roman Catholic Father Pero Paez. The letter asked for additional military aide, and may have also stated a wish for closer ties with the Roman Catholic Church.

Parts: 12 – 3 – 4