ETHIOPIA – A leaky church roof is about to give the world a glimpse of the legendary Ark of the Covenant.
The home of the iconic relic – a small chapel in Ethiopia – has sprung a leak and so the Ark will now be on the move.
The Ark – which The Bible says holds God’s Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai – is said to have been kept in Aksum, in the Chapel of the Tablet, adjacent to St Mary of Zion Church, since the 1960s.
According to the Old Testament, it was first kept in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem for centuries until a Babylonian invasion in the 6th century BC.
Since then it’s been the goal of many adventurers and archaeologists to find it. Most-famously, but also fictitiously, Indiana Jones was shown in the 1981 Steven Spielberg film Raiders of the Lost Ark.
There has also been a long-running claim from the Orthodox Christians of Ethiopia that they have had the Ark for centuries, and since the 1960s it has apparently been kept in the chapel.
This small building is surrounded by spiked iron railings, and situated between two churches, the old and new, of St Mary of Zion in central Aksum.
No one has been allowed to see the holy object, described in scripture as being made from acacia wood, plated with gold and topped with two golden angels, except one solitary elderly monk, who must watch over the Ark for the remainder of his life, and is never allowed to leave the chapel grounds.
But now the chapel – which was designed by the Ethiopian leader Emperor Hailie Selassie – has had to be covered in a tarpaulin to stop rain getting in.
The water damage could mean the Ark will be moved for the first time in decades giving religious worshippers and adventurers alike a chance to see it.
British photographer Tim Makins, 54, who is a travel photographer for publications like Lonely Planet, discovered the church had sprung a leak whilst travelling through Ethiopia last Septembe
He believes the moving of the Ark could be one of the best ways to discover if there’s any truth in the claims of the East African state.
Tim said: ‘During my most recent visit to the church, I was surprised to see some ground adjacent to the ”Chapel of the Tablet” being cleared and levelled by workmen, and some quantities of building stone being assembled nearby.
‘Asking around, I managed to discover that a new temporary chapel is due to be built, and the Ark is to be moved into it while the original chapel is repaired.
‘It seems that the builders of the 1960s were not as careful as the builders of centuries past, and the roof of the chapel has developed some serious leaks that now need comprehensive repair work.
‘To protect the Ark, a tarpaulin now covers the roof of the chapel but this is just a temporary measure.
‘To renovate the building thoroughly, the roof must be stripped back to the bare bones and so a replacement chapel is to be built next door providing a temporary home for it.’
Tim said the construction of the new temporary chapel would take about three months according to workers and religious figures at the site, though he suspects that it will probably take much longer.
He added: ‘When the work is finished, the Ark of the Covenant will be carried to its new resting place.’
‘That this can be done by the one person allowed to see it is unlikely, as The Bible describes the size of the Ark as 2.5 cubits in length, 1.5 in breadth, and 1.5 in height.
‘Cubits in today’s measurements translate to about 1.31 metres x 0.79m x 0.79m and it is normally carried on two long wooden poles.
‘If it really is this size, and still contains the two stone tablets that list God’s Ten Commandments, then the elderly monk will no doubt need some help to transport it.’