Libanos Or Matta – Ethiopian Saints


Libanos is the earliest foreign saint (probably after Yohanni, about whom very little is known) in recorded who taught, died, and was buried in Ethiopia. Understandably, the exact dates in his life remain uncertain. He flourished during the reign of Ella Gabaz, whose dates are not known, and the metropolitanate of Elyas (Elijah), who is not even listed in the list of Ethiopian metropolitans.

According to a homily allegedly composed by the Elyas, Libanos came from a very wealthy family of and Negest (probably a Ge‘ez version of the name Regina). On the night of Libanos’ wedding, the archangel Gabriel called him and commanded him to go to Dabra Zayt (perhaps Mount Olive or the Monastery of Olive), there to be clothed with monastic garb. He immediately followed the archangel and went to the monastery, where he became a monk.

The order to go to is said to have come to him from PACHOMIUS himself. He went to Ethiopia and immediately started working among the people. When Elyas heard about him, he invited him to his residence in Axum. His time in the city was not long, however. The king asked him to leave when he heard that he had accused the metropolitan of simony.

A monk by the name Adhennani or Adhani finally succeeded in bringing peace between the two religious leaders after Libanos had spent three years in a cave in seclusion. Subsequently, the two monks Libanos and Adkhenanni became associates in leading their spiritual lives. They founded a monastery in Hawzen (in Tigre) and built a church that they dedicated in the name of the Holy Cross, Beta Masqal. Libanos lived several years after the of his associate, healing the sick and praying for the peace and safety of the church and perhaps playing some role in the translation of the Gospels from Greek to Ge‘ez or Ethiopic.

Before he died, Libanos struck a rock and brought forth a holy spring by which his healing power continued.

He is commemorated on 3 Terr (Tubah).