After the Ethiopians defeated the Italians at the surprising Battle of Adwa, Emperor Menenlik II commissioned St. George Cathedral in Addis Ababa on a hill that looms above the capital of Ethiopia. The first place I visited during my recent travel to Ethiopia, St. George’s struck me as a staunch and vibrant reminder of the presence the Orthodox church has in the country’s daily life. It is rich in history, as it was the scene of the last few coronations, including that of Haile Selassie’s in 1930.

The somber grey octagon-shaped facade on the outside contrasts with the brightly-painted interior, which is almost whimsical with its periwinkle-colored ceiling and gold stars. Paintings and mosaics completed by a wide array of Ethiopian artists also make a stop at St. George’s well worth a stop. The stained glass windows complement the church’s style of Italianate architecture—after all, it was Italian POWs who mostly built St. George’s.

On the cathedral’s grounds are plenty of trees and gardens where you can take a breather and reflect. A museum laden with ecclesiastical garments, crosses and other garments is included with the price of admission—which is 100 bir ($5) for foreigners. Be sure you have a guide, as he can point out some of the arms the Ethiopians used against the Italians over the years. Hang onto that ticket tightly—you will be asked several times to show it. And be respectful: as with many Ethiopian tourist attractions, flash denigrates the paintings and other artifacts in St. George’s.

Image credits: Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye, Ethiopia, St George Cathedral, Addis Ababa, architecture, Haile Selassie, orthodox church, travel, architecture

Shining on a hill, St. George is full of history


Leon Kaye, Ethiopia, St George Cathedral, Addis Ababa, architecture, Haile Selassie, orthodox church, travel, architecture

Inside St. George's Cathedral is a vibrant, colorful decor

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.