Giyorgis II – Ethiopian Prelates

ETHIOPIAN PRELATES: GIYORGIS II (fl. early thirteenth century)

Near the end of the reign of the negus Lalibala, Giyorgis became the direct successor of Abuna Yeshaq I; his name has been transmitted only through Ethiopian documents.

Giyorgis II is first mentioned in a feudal act dated 29 March 1225 in connection with a donation of land made by Lalibala. He is also mentioned in the colophon of Kebra Nagast (Bezold, 1905, p. 138), a literary work containing the written version of the national legend of Ethiopia. This colophon states that the work had first been translated from Coptic into Arabic in the year 1217 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 1224-1225), during the reign of Lalibala and the metropolitanate of Giyorgis II.

As for the History of the Coptic Patriarchs, although it does not list the name of the metropolitan, it does conserve the story of the circumstances surrounding his election. Near the end of the pontificate of the Coptic patriarch John VI (1189-1216), the Ayyubid sultan al-Malik al-Kamil (1200-1218) received a messenger in Cairo from the king of Ethiopia (Lalibala). This messenger had been commanded to announce the death of Abuna Yeshaq I to the sultan and ask him to send a new one. However, an ambitious Coptic priest named Dawud ibn Laqlaq then went to al- Malik al-Kamil and, after giving him 200 dinars, asked the sultan to intervene and have him (Dawud) consecrated as metropolitan of Ethiopia. (This same Dawud later became the Coptic patriarch Cyril III, 1235-1243.)

Al-Malik al-Kamil sent the messenger to John VI, who in turn suggested to the messenger that he tell the sultan “that this one is not fit because his belief in God is corrupt” and that sending him to Ethiopia could distance the Ethiopians from the Coptic church and consequently from the Egyptian authorities as well. The messenger having followed these instructions, the sultan decided to leave the patriarch complete freedom in making his choice. Thus it was that someone other than Dawud was consecrated as metropolitan. Although the History of the Patriarchs omits both the name of the metropolitan and the date of his consecration, it is clear that this episode refers to Giyorgis II, and thus, his election must be placed around 1215.

The date when his metropolitanate ended is unknown. It is possible (but not certain) that he was the immediate predecessor of Qerelos I.


  • Bezold, C. Kebra Nagast: Die Herrlichkeit der Könige, p. 138. Munich, 1905.
  • Budge, E. A. W. The Queen of Sheba and Her Only Son, Menyelek I, p. 228. London, 1922.
  • Rossini, C. “L’evangelo d’oro di Dabra Libanos.” Rendiconti della Reale Accademia dei Lincei 10, ser. 5 (1901):189-91.
  • . “Aethiopica: Sull’autore e sulla data del Kebra Nagast.” Rivista degli studi orientali 10 (1925):506-508.
  • . Storia d’Etiopia, pp. 309-310. Bergamo, 1928.
  • Taddesse Tamrat. Church and State in Ethiopia 1270-1527, p. 64. Oxford, 1972.

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