About 3km from Hayk town, Hayk Istafanos is one of Ethiopia’s most historic and influential monasteries. The church was founded in the ninth century by a monk called Kala’e Selama after he converted a local python-worshipping cult to Christianity. Hayk Istafanos became a monastery in the thirteenth century under the leadership of the influential priest Iyasus Moa. Soon after it emerged as the most powerful monastery in Ethiopia following the restoration of the Solomonic line under Yakuno Amlak, who had spent much of his youth here training as a novice under Iyasus Moa. The original church, like so many in the region, was destroyed by Ahmed Gragn in the sixteenth century, and its circular modern replacement is no more than a century old. Of far greater interest is the church museum, which houses several unusual artefacts. These include a heavy stone cross that reputedly belonged to its founder, a sacrificial stone formerly used by the pagans he converted and several very old illuminated books.

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