Overview Article in the Journal of Early Modern History
In 1632, Ṣägga Krәstos arrived in Cairo and introduced himself to Franciscan missionaries as the legitimate heir to the Ethiopian throne. Following conversion to Catholicism, he embarked on an epic journey throughout the Italian peninsula and France, where he won the approval of prelates, noblemen, and learned observers, whom he impressed with his piety, refined manners, and intellect. However, his journey ended in a scandal that defined his legacy, turning him into a farcical figure.
Ṣägga Krәstos (Zaga Christ)
I first learned about Ṣägga Krǝstos’s while conducting my doctoral research, over a decade ago. As I began consulting the limited literature available on this incredible character and his journey, it became clear to me that his experience in Europe had been misinterpreted and remained rather understudied. I have been on Ṣägga Krǝstos’s trail since then, scouring over twenty archives in Europe, the Middle East and North America. As of today, I have published an overview of his journey in the Journal of Early Modern History, and his autobiographical statement, for Africa. Recently, Ṣägga Krǝstos was prominently featured in the SKY Arte documentary XXXXI am currently working on a comprehensive study, which should be ready by summer 2023
Ṣägga Krǝstos's Autobiography in Africa
In Rome, intent on convincing the papacy of his royal identity, Ṣägga Krǝstos dictated an autobiographical statement that included his dynastic claim, and the circumstance of his escape from Ethiopia. As he traveled across Italy and France, Ṣägga Krәstos shared the documents with his acquaintances and, once in Paris, he had it translated in French and published. The statement is the earliest known autobiography voluntarily written and published in Europe by an African-born author.
Giovanna Garzoni's Miniature Portrait of Ṣägga Krǝstos
In 1634-5, Ṣägga Krǝstos spent several months in Turin, hosted by the Duke of Savoy, and was immortalized by the Giovanna Garzoni in an exquisite miniature portrait recently acquired by the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College. Admire and learn more about this unique painting in this video and this article by the curator.