Gondar sits high
and proud 7,500 feet above sea level with mountains rising on
every side and Lake Tana gleaming in the distance. The site of
the city was well chosen for defense because it spreads over the
top of a ridge making access to it difficult from any direction.
For 200 years during Ethiopia's Middle Ages in the 17th and 18th
Centuries,the kings of Gondar ruled much of Northern Ethiopia.
In 1632 King Fasilides selected Gondar as his capital, and it
soon became the political and cultural center of the country.
Although the civilization of Axum was one of the mainstrings of
Ethiopian culture, the achievments of the Middle Ages, centered
in Gondar, have had a great influence on the nation.
After the decline of the Zagwe Dynasty at Lalibela, Ethiopia was
ruled by kings who moved the court with them from place to place
in Northern Ethiopia. Moslem armies sought to penetrate the
highlands and under Ahamed Gran in the 16th Century, burned Axum
and defeated the Ethiopian armies. By this time the Portugese
had established contact with the Kingdom of Prestor John and
sent Christopher da Gama, a son of Vasco, to help Ethiopia fight
the Moslem armies. After the death of Ahamed Gran, Portugese
missionaries sought to convert the Ethiopians to Roman
Catholicism but failed. By the 17th Century the period of long
religious conflict with the Moslems and Portugese was passing
and a new epoch was ready to be added to Ethiopian history.
and his dynasty built some of the most remarkable buildings in
Africa, and Gondar became an imperial walled city of towers and
castles. Although influenced by Portugese design, the castles
emerge as thoroughly