Female Parishioners

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Female parishioners and a nun wrapped in gold huddle in prayer outside St. Mary of Zion, Axum’s Ethiopian Orthodox cathedral. The church, whose foundations date back to Axum’s conversion to Christianity in the fourth century, is open only to men. The small Byzantine-style chapel next door is the domain of one man—Abba Mekonen, the Keeper of the Ark of the Covenant. Emperor Haile Selassie built the chapel in 1964 to house what many Ethiopian Christians believe is the fabled Ark, the chest that holds the Ten Commandments.

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