Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

David Pacifico

Second Advisor

Richard Leson


Christianity, Ethiopia, Ethiopian Art, Kebra Nagast, Queen of Sheba, Timket


King Ezana declared Christianity as Ethiopia’s state religion in 330 C.E. Ethiopia was the first country to mint a coin with the symbol of a cross. The Christian religion was established as a political move to strengthen economic ties with the Mediterranean world. Christianity has been used to keep Ethiopia independent. The Ethiopian artworks discussed here depict themes based on Christian narratives with multiple groupings of similar motifs and identical religious iconography. The Ethiopian art market still creates these motifs today to spread a repeated political message of the country’s pride, history, and represent their rulers’ legitimacy. I explore these religious messages by interpreting the artworks through Ethiopia’s sacred text, the Kebra Nagast, which therefore presents the works in an Ethiopian context. The message is clear throughout these works: Ethiopian rulers are direct descendants of King Solomon, and therefore King David, and Ethiopia shall remain prosperous and victorious.