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Editor’s note: This column is the first of a series titled ‘The Searchers.’
Prince Stephanos (Stephen Mengesha) knows.
Grant Jeffrey knows.
Graham Hancock knows.
Lyle Harron knows.
And so do I.
Shrouded in mystery and intrigue and cloaked with a legacy of divine wrath for more than 3,000
years, the Ark of the Covenant is believed to be in northern Ethiopia.
The most important archaeological, historical and religious object in man’s history is likely
“resting” in the bowels of an Ethiopian Orthodox church, St. Mary of Zion, in Aksum, a “holy
city,” in Tigre province, 623 km north of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
Neither Ethiopian Orthodox officials nor the secretive cadres of priests who still guard a
sacred chest, which supposedly housed the Ten Commandments, have divulged its exact location
within the archaic religious compound.
Efforts to locate the Ark aren’t new because throughout history, various individuals and even
countries have tried to track it down.
Certainly, there are numerous so-called experts who believe the Ark has been destroyed by time
or that it is still hidden under the Temple Mount and debunk the Ethiopian claims.
In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Nazi Germany’s Adolph Hitler was supposedly obsessed with it after
the fictional hero, Indiana Jones, located it in the long-lost city of Tanis, Egypt. Later, in
Spielberg’s movie version, the golden chest was relegated to a museum warehouse, probably the
Smithsonian, devoid of its power after destroying the Nazi infidels.
The Ark epitomized Power. Even to look at it meant sudden death. There is a Biblical account of
a man named Uzza, who attempted to steady this small golden box atop an ox-driven cart, and met
his Maker before his time. There were other writings, which claimed more than 50,000 died
excruciating deaths by peering inside it.
If it is such a lethal weapon, why are adventurers still combing Aksum’s ancient ruins in
search of the invaluable relic? It’s certain Israel has a great interest in it because it’s a
lynchpin in rebuilding a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which would herald
The history of the Ark is sometimes lost in the mists of time, however, there seems to be
certainty as to its construction and its purpose, according to Biblical accounts, such as:
Its construction by the Hebrew patriarch Moses’ chief carpenter, Bezalel, in about 1250 B.C.
This occurred after Moses came down Mount Sinai with the tablets containing the Ten
The stone tablets were placed in a chest, about four feet in length and about 2 1/2 feet high
feet high and the same 2 1/2 feet wide, made of acacia wood and covered inside and out with
gold. There were two carrying poles also layered in gold.
During its journey to the Promised Land and, eventually, to “rest” in Solomon’s Temple on Mount
Moriah in Jerusalem, the Ark was to display its supernatural powers.
The fabled Ark, however, “disappeared” between the reign of King Solomon of Israel (970-931
B.C.) and the Babylonians’ destruction of the Great Temple and its environs in 586 B.C.
This “disappearance” sets in motion the Ethiopian claim that Menelik, a son of King Solomon and
Makeda, also known as the Queen of Sheba, took the Ark and replaced it with a replica in the
Archbishop Yesehaq of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church confirmed the story that Menelik I and a
group of Jewish noblemen’s sons hired a carpenter to make a duplicate of the Ark. After it was
completed, the legend goes, the angel of the Lord unlocked the Temple doors and a switch was
made and Menelik and his companions carried off the sacred chest to Aksum, in present-day
Ethiopia. It was supposedly the ruling city of Makeda and her successor, Menelik I.
In Aksum today, despite a multitude of differing views of how it got there and when, there
seems to be little doubt it “rests” in a secret compartment beneath a small chapel next to the
new St. Mary of Zion church. It’s supposedly still guarded by a specially picked priest, who
maintains his vigil from the age of seven until he dies.
While Ethiopia continues to cling to the Ark of the Covenant as a lifeline after a devastating
war and famine, Israel may soon make its claim on this most valued relic, which could make a
dramatic effect on the Jewish state and the world. If this happened, it’s believed Jews
throughout the world would rush to build a proper house, a new Temple, on the Temple Mount in
Jerusalem, which is presently occupied by the Muslims’ Dome of the Rock shrine and Al-Aqsa
Voices would say for Ethiopia to trade it for billions of needed currency to relieve the
pressure following a ruinous 30-year conflict and the gut-wrenching series of famines. However,
nearly 50 million Ethiopians would likely defend the right to keep it for it’s so integrated
into the nation’s psyche that there’s a replica of it in more than 20,000 Ethiopian Orthodox
churches throughout the world. It is their source of strength, their reason for living, that
and their faith in the Solomonic dynasty, which was interrupted by the murder of Emperor Haile
Selassie in 1975.
In October 1990, 17 Palestinians were killed when the rumor was spread that a band of Jewish
fundamentalists, the Temple Mountain Faithful, led by Gershon Salomon, were attempting to lay a
cornerstone for the new Third Temple.
If the Ark of the Covenant is indeed in a church in northern Ethiopia, there will, undoubtedly,
be a movement to insure it is returned to Jerusalem — in the near future.
The resulting repercussions could be monumental.
NEXT: The Searchers series uncovers the true story of the Ark with excerpts from the diary of
Kaye Corbett, Lyle Harron and H.R.H. Stephanos (Stephen Mengesha), the favorite great grandson
of the late Emperor Haile Selassie. In addition, both authors Graham Hancock and Grant Jeffrey
will present their claims. Corbett intends to re-visit Ethiopia and his findings will be
included in a paperback, The Last Emperor of the Ark, in 1999.