Na'akueto La'ab

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Priest with Large Canvas at the Church of the Monastery of Na'akueto La'ab, with a depiction of the legend of kings

Na'akueto La'ab was negus of Ethiopia, and a member of the Zagwe dynasty. According to Taddesse Tamrat, he was the son of Kedus Harbe.[1] Richard Pankhurst credits him with the creation of the church located in a cave a half-day's journey from the town of Lalibela.[2] According to a manuscript Pedro Páez and Manuel de Almeida saw at Axum, Na'akueto La'ab ruled for 40 years, a suspiciously round number.[3]

A Gadla or hagiography of Na'akueto La'ab exists, in a manuscript written in the 17th century. According to Huntingford, it documents that Zagwe power had extended into Gojjam, and credits the king with building two churches: one at Sewa'a "which is said to have been called Wagra Sehin ('mountain of incense') 'among Celestrial', and Ashetan or Asheten 'among Terrestrials'", which Huntingford identifies with an existing church named Ashetan Maryam, a monolithic structure located a few kilometers east of Lalibela; the other in the land of Qoqhena, which was given a tabot from a desecrated church dedicated to Istifanos.[4]

Tradition states that queen Masqal Kibra convinced her husband, King Lalibela, to abdicate in favor of Na'akueto La'ab, but 18 months later when the young king's soldiers appropriated a poor farmer's only cow for the king's dinner table, she convinced Lalibela to resume the throne. Taddesse Tamrat suspects that the end of Lalibela's rule was not in truth this peaceful, he argues that this tradition masks a brief period when Na'akueto La'ab "was no doubt a rallying point for disaffected elements in the country, and although kept under close watch managed to usurp the throne for a brief period until Yetbarak managed to take his father's throne."[5]


  1. ^ Taddesse Tamrat, Church and State in Ethiopia (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 56n.
  2. ^ Richard Pankhurst, The Ethiopians: A History (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), p. 53
  3. ^ G.W.B. Huntingford, "'The Wealth of Kings' and the End of the Zāguē Dynasty", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 28 (1965), p. 8
  4. ^ G.W.B. Huntingford, Historical Geography of Ethiopia from the first century AD to 1704 (London: British Academy, 1989), p. 68
  5. ^ Taddesse Tamrat, pp. 62ff

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Regnal titles
Preceded by
Gebre Mesqel Lalibela
Emperor of Ethiopia Succeeded by