Art Inside Ethiopian Catholic Cathedral Reveals “paradise on earth”: Bishop

Bishop Musie Ghebreghiorghis and Fr. Vittorio Boria reflect on the secret meaning of St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral in Ethiopia. Credit: CBCE

The structural design, the paintings, and the general aesthetics of St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral of the Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Emdeber gives off an aura of paradise.

In a video recording published on the Facebook page of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE), Bishop Musie Ghebreghiorghis of Emdeber explains the architecture and art of the Catholic Cathedral, which is divided into three parts, saying the Cathedral’s innermost part, especially, represents “heaven on earth”.

This part of the Cathedral, which was created in 2003 has paintings representing the sacrifices of the Old Testament that Bishop Musie explains “come to fulfillment through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”

“We have the Sacrifice of Abraham through his son Isaac, the sacrifice of Zachariah, that of Aaron, the sacrifice of Abel, the sacrifice of Melchizedek,” the Ethiopian Catholic Bishop says in the video recording published March 14, and adds, “The most prominent figure is Jesus the Pantocrator, whose throne is carried by four animals in each of the four corners.”

On each of the four corners surrounding the Altar, are the faces of a lion, an eagle, the face of a bull, and the face of a man. 


“These are the faces that eventually became the symbols of the four evangelists,” Bishop Musie explains.

There is also the painting of the Virgin Mary who, the Ethiopian member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (OFM. Cap.) says, “is inseparable from her divine son.”

“We don't celebrate the Eucharist without the presence of The Virgin. She is the mother of the Eucharist,” he says, and explains, “What we sacrifice on the Altar is the son of the Virgin Mary. We start the Liturgical celebration in Bethlehem, also called the sacristy or the house of bread. We come in by procession that ends with the sacrifice at Golgotha or the Altar.”

This section also has what Bishop Musie calls “a window of light” that he says represents the Virgin Mary “because she carried Jesus.”

Priests at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral celebrate Holy Mass facing the Altar, and not the people. Bishop Musie explains, “If he turns towards the people, the Eucharistic celebration becomes earthly, and not heavenly.” 

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“The Priest is not the main focal point in the Eucharistic celebration. Our focus should be Jesus Christ who is on the Altar, one who is giving His life for us. The Priest himself is part of the faithful worshiping Christ,” the Local Ordinary of Emdeber since his Episcopal Ordinary in February 2004 says.

The second part of the Cathedral is where the word of God is proclaimed, and the third part of the Cathedral is where the Holy Spirit empowers the faithful to carry on his message.

All art in the third part tells of the history of salvation started by God the Father, continued by God the son, and now carried on by the Church towards the second coming of Jesus, Bishop Musie says.

Towards the exit, there is the image of God the Father at the top, surrounded by archangels and the angels.

The image of Jesus Christ follows, sitting on the throne where he is surrounded by prophets and the apostles. 


Bishop Musie explains the painting of Jesus Christ near the exit door of the Cathedral, saying, “Here, he is judging the living and the dead on the basis of the beatitudes.”

Above the image of Jesus, are two angels holding two books, a painting that is also symbolic.

“We believe that each person has an angel accompanying him or her, taking record of his or her life, and this angel will be their witness on the day of judgment,” the OFM Capuchin Bishop says, and explains that the two books are open with nothing written in them. 

“When people have finished worshiping and are going outside the Church, they look at those open books and ask themselves where their lives will be written. On the right or on the left. They go out meditating on the future of their lives,” he says.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.