Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia. Which flows to Khartoum, Sudan and beyond? It was formed by volcanic blockage and created one of Africa’s greatest waterfalls, known as Tis Abay or Tis Isat .
The lake has a number of islands, whose number varies depending on the level of the lake; it has fallen about 6 feet in the last 400 years. A more modern geographer named it 37 island of which 19 have or had monasteries or churches on them.
Remains of ancient Ethiopia emperors and treasures of the church are kept in the isolated island monasteries. On the island of Tana Qirqos rock shown to visitors on which it was told the Virgin Mary had rested on her journey back from Egypt and also Frumentius who introduced Christianity to Ethiopia is allegedly buried on Tana Cherqos. The body of Yekuno Amelak is interred In the monastery of st .Stephen on Dega Island; other emperors whose tombs are on Dega include Dawit I, Zara Yaqob ,Za Dengel and Fasilides . Other important islands in lake Tana include Dek Isaland and Meshralia .
Lake Tana and its Medieval Period Island Monasteries
Lake Tana has thirty-seven islands, twenty of which are home to churches and monasteries. Some of them dated back to the 13th century and many others are dated from the 14th century to the Gonderine period of the 17th and 18th centuries. Many of the original churches of Lake Tana are said to be renovated and reconstructed during the Gonderine period.
Many of the churches and monasteries of Lake Tana are very famous cultural museums because of their beautiful mural paintings and many other valuable treasures such as varieties of crosses, crowns, costumes of Kings, illuminated manuscripts, mummified bodies and remains of several Ethiopia Emperors in wooden coffins and glass boxes. In addition, they have been used as the major refugees for many cultural treasures of the country in general and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in particular during the times of war and worse conditions in the history of the country like the devastating wars of Ahmed Gragn.