Monday, May 02, 2011

From Ethiopia, with Love

Sometimes I get challenging requests and I have to use a lot of imagination to find an inspiration for an illuminated page. In 2009 I was asked to create an illuminated page for my friend Simon who was being elevated to the Order of the Pelican. Simon’s persona hails from Ethiopia.

simon I searched and came across some photos online that showed illuminated manuscripts being displayed by clerics at the Monastery of Na’akuto La’ab just outside Lalibela, Ethiopia. The church at Na’akuto La’ab is a brick building built entirely within a large natural cave. The clerics at this church will happily bring out manuscripts and display them for visitors. Lalibela and Na’akuto La’ab were founded in the 12th century and are among the holiest sites for Christians in Ethiopia.

Although I have done much research, I cannot find a date for the manuscript being displayed by the cleric from Na’akuto La’ab. The style of the manuscript in similar to the wall frescos inside the churches at Lalibela and Na’akuto La’ab so I utilized it as a model that is representative of the painting style done in that region.

simon2 The illuminated portrait on Simon’s Pelican scroll is taken from an image posted by a visitor to Lalibela. The portrait from Na’akuto La’ab depicts a man holding a key and walking stick or cane. This may symbolize St Peter who is often depicted holding a key or St Lazarus who is shown with a cane. The text page was inspired by another page from the same manuscript. The calligraphy was inspired by the Ge'ez script in the manuscript.

There is a photo album on Flickr that shows more detail from this manuscript on display at Na’akuto La’ab . The photos are really lovely and striking. I also found a travel journal that includes gorgeous photos of the area around Na’akuto La’ab, the church, and the church’s treasures which include the manuscript upon which this piece is based.


  • Drafting: HL Gwenhwfyr ber Cain
  • Base Painting: HL Bryna of Kildare
  • Details and finish illumination: Mistress Maol Mide ingen Medra
  • Calligraphy: Mistress Maeva Eiriksdottir


Anonymous said...

Yes! I love Ethiopian illumination so much ♥ The ornamentation of your calligraphy page is simply beautiful. Love it.
I might know a book that references that manuscript (I think). If I can find out something about a date, I'll definitely let you know!

Kristen said...

I would love *any* information on this manuscript!