Perhaps the most revered of Ethiopian Orthodox saints, Tekle Haymanot (c.1215–c.1313), the founder of Debre Libanos, is also the only such personage to be recognized further afield (a church dedicated to him in Alexandria was consecrated in 1969). Reputedly of Tigraian ancestry, Tekle Haymanot (literally “Plant of Faith”) was instrumental not only in the spread of Christianity through northern Ethiopia but also in the reinstatement of the so-called Solomonic dynasty after centuries of Zagwe rule.

Portraits of Tekle Haymanot usually depict him with one leg and six wings, attributes that reflect the many bizarre myths attached to him. It is said he spent seven years standing praying on the one leg – causing the other to fall off – all the while subsisting on a single seed a year, which was fed to him by a bird. The wings were a divine gift, granted to him by God after the devil murderously cut a rope the saint was using to ascend a cliff. Tradition states that on his death, aged 98, Tekle Haymanot was buried in the cliff-side cave where he had practised his hermitic ways, though his body was reinterred at Debre Libanos in the late fourteenth century.

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