ETHIOPIAN PRELATES: QERELOS I (fl. end thirteenth century)

It is probable (but not certain) that Qerelos I was the direct successor to Abuna Giyorgis II. The principal data concerning this metropolitan comes from the Life of Haymanot (Budge, 1906), the Ethiopian saint (d. c. 1313) to whom is attributed both the founding in Shewa of Dabra Asbo (later called Dabra Libanos) and the establishment of one of the two great monastic orders of Ethiopia.

This Life that at fifteen years of age Takla Haymanot was led by his father to Abuna Gerelos (i.e., Qerelos or Cyril), who ordained him a deacon. The text describes Qerelos as “bishop of Amhara at the time of the Zagwe kings” and states that Haymanot’s ordination took place “when Benjamin was Archbishop of Alexandria,” a statement based on a misunderstanding, since there was no successor to Saint Mark named Benjamin during the thirteenth century. According to this same Life, Qerelos then conferred the priesthood upon Abuna Takla Haymanot and eventually named him liqa kahnat (chief of the priests). However, according to Cerulli (1943, pp. 230-31), the office of liqa kahnat, which consisted in the candidates to be presented to the metropolitan for ordination as priests, was in fact established only in the by Abuna Ya‘qob and assigned to Fileppos, third abbot of Dabra Asbo.

The name of this abun is often missing in the traditional lists of the metropolitans of the Ethiopian church, but there is no doubt as to his existence. He is mentioned notably in an act concerning a gift of land made in 1270 by the negus Yekunno Amlak soon after his accession to the throne, an act registered in the Golden Gospel of Dabra Libanos in Shimazana.

The date when the metropolitanate of Qerelos I ended is unknown. He seems to have died near the beginning of Yekunno Amlak’s reign, for according to the Egyptian historian al-MAQRIZI, in a letter written to the Mamluk sultan Baybars (1260-1277) that was received in A.H. 673/A.D. 1274-1275, the negus Yekunno Amlak requested a new metropolitan. It would appear, according to certain Arabic documents, that Qerelos I had as his successor a Syrian metropolitan (unnamed) or even several Syrian metropolitans. According to one hypothesis (Weit, 1938, pp. 117-21), these Syrian metropolitans were Melchite, but according to another (Taddesse Tamrat, 1972), they were Jacobite; however, the Arabic documents are not at all explicit on this subject. According to the Life, the Abuna Yohannes II wished to consecrate Haymanot “bishop over half of Ethiopia.” Although the reality of this consecration is questionable, the episode is important from a chronological point of view, for it confirms that Abuna Yohannes II was the direct successor of Qerelos I.

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