Sites & cities that bear the name of Debre Berhan

Debre Berhan

Today in : Ethiopia
First trace of activity : 1456 C.E
Last trace of activity : today
Recorded names : ደብረ ብርሃን, Däbrä Brhan

Description : Debre Berhan (Amharic: ደብረ ብርሃን, romanized: Däbrä Brhan) is a city in Amhara Region, Ethiopia. Located in the Semien Shewa Zone of the Amhara Region, about 120 kilometers north east of Addis Ababa on Ethiopian highway 2, the town has an elevation of 2,840 meters, which makes it the highest town of this size in Africa. It was an early capital of Ethiopia and afterwards, with Ankober and Angolalla, was one of the capitals of the kingdom of Shewa. Debre Berhan was founded by Emperor Zara Yaqob, in response to a miraculous light that was seen in the sky at the time. Believing this was a sign from God showing his approval for the death by stoning of a group of heretics 38 days before, the emperor ordered a church built on the site, and later constructed an extensive palace nearby, and a second church, dedicated to Saint Cyriacus. Zara Yaqob spent 12 of the last 14 years of his life in Debre Berhan. Historian Richard Pankhurst offers the date of 1456 for the date of the founding of this church, providing a plausible argument that the light in the sky was Halley's Comet, which could have been in Shewa that year, although the traditional dates (10th day of the month of Maggabit, i.e. 6 or 7 March) do not coincide with the days that the comet was most visible (13 through 17 June). While his son Baeda Maryam did spend the first part of his reign in Debre Berhan, eventually Baeda Maryam returned to the established itinerant practice of living in a permanent encampment that was constantly on the move through the realm. The departure of the court led to a decline in the population and importance of this town. Pankhurst explains that the needs of the imperial court and army—who numbered in the thousands—for firewood and food was so burdensome that, "it could not remain in any one locality for more than four months, nor return to the same place in less than 10 years due to the resultant shortage of food", which prevented the growth of any capital city in this period.

See on map »