ETHIOPIAN PRELATES: YOHANNES II (fl. early fourteenth century)

The date of Yohannes’ arrival in Ethiopia is unknown, but in the Life of Takla Haymanot, the Ethiopian saint who founded one of the two great monastic orders of Ethiopia (Budge, 1906—text, p. 84 and trans., pp. 206-207), it is reported that toward the end of the saint’s life there arrived in Ethiopia a metropolitan called Yohannes. This metropolitan wished to ordain Takla Haymanot a bishop and give him half of the country, but the saint declined the offer. In general, this episode is considered only as an imitation of a similar episode—the supposed assignment of the position of the bishop to Fileppos, third abbot of Dabra Libanos. However, it is important from a chronological point of view, for it shows that Yohannes II was the successor (probably direct) of Abuna Qerelos I and that he arrived in Ethiopia just before the death of Abuna Takla Haymanot (c. 1313).

Yohannes’ prelacy is confirmed by another text, the Life Basalota Mika’el (Rossini, 1962, pp. 22-23; and 1961, pp. 20-21), abbot of Dabra Gol in Amhara during the first half of the fourteenth century. Here it is stated that Basalota Mika’el, having noted that Yohannes was collecting contributions for administering and, in particular, for ordaining priests, did not hesitate to reproach him, all of which the metropolitan ignored. Thereupon, the abbot dared to make his complaints known to the negus (unnamed in the Ethiopian text, but doubtless ‘Amda Seyon), who, however, instead of giving credence to the abbot, exiled him to Tigre.

This accusation of simony seems unusual, for it is well known that in Ethiopia the metropolitans have always been accorded revenues and that they collected a contribution from each candidate to the priesthood at the time of his ordination. This episode should thus be interpreted in the sense that probably this particular metropolitan levied too large a contribution upon each candidate, which would constitute an impediment to the increase of priests just at a time when the Ethiopian church was having to fight in a country still rife with paganism.

The date of Yohannes II’s death is unknown, but it may be presumed that his metropolitanate can be placed between 1310 and 1330. His successor was Ya‘qob.


  • Almeida, M. de. Historia de Ethiopia a alta ou Abassia, p. 184.
  • Rerum Aethiopicarum Scriptores Occidentales Inediti 5. Rome, 1907.
  • Budge, E. A. W. The Life of Takla Haymanot in the Version of Dabra Libanos, pp. 69-70, 206-208. London, 1906.
  • Cerulli, E. della letteratura etiopica, pp. 79-80. Milan, 1956; 3rd ed., pp. 62-63. Milan, 1968.
  • Kur, S. Actes de Samuel de Dabra Wagag. In CSCO 288, pp. vii, 39. Louvain, 1968.
  • Páez, P. Historia de Ethiopia, p. 573. Rerum Aethiopicarum Scriptores Occidentales Inediti 2. Rome, 1905.
  • Rossini, C. Vitae Sanctorum Indigenarum, Vol. 1, Acta S. Basalota- Mika’el et S. Anorewos. In CSCO 28, Scriptores Aethiopici 11. Louvain, 1962. Trans. in CSCO 29, Scriptores Aethiopici 12. Louvain, 1961.
  • Taddesse Tamrat. Church and State in Ethiopia, 1270-1527, pp. 114-15, 178. Oxford, 1972.