Mobile menu

Finding of the True Cross, (Meskel Celebration), (September 27);

Maskal is second in importance only to Timkat and has been celebrated in the country for over 1,600 years. The word actually means "cross" and the feast commemorates the discovery of the Cross--upon which Jesus was crucified--by the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. The original event took place on 19 March, AD 326, but the feast is now celebrated on 27 September.


Many of the rites observed throughout the festival are said to be directly connected to the legend of Empress Helena. On the eve of Maskal tall ranches are tied together and yellow daisies, popularly called maskal flowers, are placed at the top. During the night these ranches are gathered together in front of the compound gates and ignited. This symbolizes the actions of the Empress who, when no one would show her the Holy Sepulcher, lit incense and prayed for help. Where the smoke drifted she dug and found three crosses. To one of the them, the True Cross, many miracles were attributed.


Maskal also signifies the physical presence of the True Cross at the remote mountain monastery of Gishen Mariam located in the Welo region. In this monastery is a massive volume called the Tefut, written during the reign of Zera Yacob (1434-1468), which records the story of how a fragment of the Cross was acquired. In the Middle Ages, it relates, the Christian monarchs of Ethiopia were called upon to protect the Coptic minorities and wage punitive war against their persecutors. Their reward was usually gold, but instead the Emperor Dawit asked for a fragment of the True Cross from the Patriarch of Alexandria. He received it at Maskal