Enda Mariam Cathedral, Asmara
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Enda Mariam Cathedral, Asmara

Enda Mariam Cathedral is an Eritrean Orthodox church in Asmara, Eritrea. The cathedral is located on Arbate Asmara Street.


In the Tigrinya language enda (), when combined with another noun, indicates a structure associated with that other thing. Thus enda bani (bread) means a bakery, enda afras (horses) means a stable, enda dewel (bell) means a church tower or belfry, enda tseba (milk) means a dairy.[1]Mariam (?) means Mary. The church is also called Kidisti Mariam (Saint Mary).[2]


Abyssinian church in Asmara 1895

The church (in a simple wooden structure) was present in Asmara since the late XIX century. In the early 1930s the Italian governor of Asmara ordered to create an improved structure with modern building materials and under the supervision of Italian architects.

In its present rationalist/modernist style, the church dates from 1938, when an unknown Italian architect,[3] added the upper portions of the two flanking towers and the modernistic treatment of the façade to the 1920 form designed by Ernesto Gallo.[2][3][4] The 1920 form has also been attributed to Odoardo Cavagnari,[5] who designed Asmara's Opera and Asmara's futuristic Fiat Tagliero service station,[6] and who was Asmara's Chief of Public Works,[7]

Both the central block and the two large freestanding square towers that flank it are built in alternate layers of brick and stone, emulating the layers of wood and stone of Aksumite architecture, a technique that has been for centuries in use in the Eritrean highlands. The protruding wooden support beams in these structures have been named "monkey heads".[4][8][9]

the church just before the Italian improvements

Earlier forms

In his account of the visit to Eritrea in 1891 by a Royal Commission sent by the Italian government, Ferdinando Martini, in line with his derogatory attitude towards all matters concerning the native "Abyssinians", described the then church at Asmara as less decent than the huts for hay in Italian farmyards.[10] The illustrated fourth (1896) edition of his book includes a photograph of the church,[11] some seven metres long, with traditional "monkey head" walls and a thatched roof whose projection beyond the walls was supported by rough poles.

A 1922 photograph of the church and its two towers in their 1920 form[12] shows that it then had no trace of the modernistic elements that in 1938 made it decidedly more elegant.

Other prominent religious buildings

Enda Mariam compound with, in the background, the bell tower of the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and the minaret of Kulafah Al Rashidan Great Mosque

It is one of three prominent religious landmarks in the city, the others being the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and Kulafah Al Rashidan Great Mosque.[13]

Annual feast

The church's Nigdet (religious feast) of Saint Mary is celebrated on 30 November (1 December if the following Gregorian calendar year is a leap year).[14]


  1. ^ Tigrinya-English English-Tigrinya Dictionary
  2. ^ a b Eritrean Ministry of Information, "History of Saint Mary Church"
  3. ^ a b Sean Anderson, Modern Architecture and its Representation in Colonial Eritrea: An In-visible Colony, 1890-1941 (Routledge 2016), Illustration 2.34 ISBN 978-1-31709477-7
  4. ^ a b Edward Denison, Edward Paice, Eritrea: The Bradt Travel Guide (Bradt Travel Guides 2007), p. 117 ISBN 978-1-84162171-5
  5. ^ Fidelity House, "Guida di Asmara"
  6. ^ The Guardian, "Asmara's Fiat Tagliero service station: a history of cities in 50 buildings, day 18"
  7. ^ Edward Denison, Edward Paice, Eritrea: The Bradt Travel Guide (Bradt Travel Guides 2007), p. 84 ISBN 978-1-84162171-5
  8. ^ Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Eritrea. Matt Phillips, Jean-Bernard Carillet - 2006 -1741044367 Page 315 "Another outstanding monument, the Enda Mariam Orthodox Cathedral (Map p311 ; Arbate Asmara St), to the east, was built in 1938 and is a curious blend of Italian and Eritrean architecture. Its central block is flanked by large square towers"
  9. ^ Africa Research Institute, "Modernist architecture in Asmara, Eritrea
  10. ^ Ferdinando Martini, Nell'Africa Italiana: Impressioni e Ricordi, fourth (illustrated) edition, 1896, p. 102
  11. ^ Chiesa abissina all'Asmara
  12. ^ Ande Mariam in 1922
  13. ^ "Religious sites of Asmara (1)". asmera.nl. Retrieved 2015.
  14. ^ "Asmara Eritrea (Nigdet)- November 30th 2005". Asmera.nl. Retrieved 2015.[permanent dead link]

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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