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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 February 2017

American University of Sharjah


The article chronicles the diasporic life of the Cyprus-born Ethiopian priest Yoḥannǝs (1509–65), who, after traveling far and wide across Europe and to Portuguese India, eventually settled in Rome and served the papacy for over two decades. Rare language skills and a cosmopolitan coming of age enabled his remarkable ecclesiastical career as an agent of the Counter-Reformation. Shortly before an untimely death, Yoḥannǝs became the second black bishop and the first black nuncio in the history of the Roman Church, rare appointments that would not be accessible to black Africans again until the 20th century. His unique experience represents a significant addition to the available historiography on blacks in early modern Europe and calls into question some commonly held assumptions in African diaspora studies.

An Ethiopian Catholic in the Early Modern African Diaspora
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I would like to extend my gratitude to Gianfranco Armando (Archivio Segreto Vaticano [ASV]), James De Lorenzi, Ersilia Graziani (Archivio di Stato di Roma [ASR]), Elia Italo Salvadore, Ruth Iyob, and Silvia Vaccino. I am also indebted to the anonymous readers for their detailed feedback and critical suggestions. A partial English translation of the Processus (see fn. 7) is available at ( Author's email:


1 All consulted sources refer to Yoḥannǝs by either his Italianized or Latinized name, along with the demonym Abyssinian, that is, Giovanni Battista Abissino and Johannes Baptista Habiscinus. Judging by the only two extant signed documents, Yoḥannǝs himself seems to have adapted to his diasporic circumstances: he signed his Latin confession of faith with his Latinized name, whereas he signed a letter to a fellow Ethiopian, written in Gǝᶜǝz, as ‘Yoḥannǝs’. There is no evidence of Yoḥannǝs ever using Yoḥannǝs Mâṭmǝq (John the Baptist). I opted to refer to him as Yoḥannǝs in order to underline and honor his Ethiopian identity.

2 On Africans in the early church, see Sertima, I. V. (ed.), African Presence in Early Europe (New Brunswick, 1985)Google Scholar; and Scobie, E., ‘The African popes’, Journal of African Civilizations, 4:1 (1982), 8495 Google Scholar.

3 Whereas blacks in Europe were, in general, victims of prejudice and discrimination, a modern conception of race that associated skin color with biological inferiority would not be articulated until the eighteenth century. Accordingly, my use of ‘color prejudice’ is akin to James Sweet's notion of an early modern ‘racism without race’. See Sweet, J., ‘The Iberian roots of American racist thought’, The William and Mary Quarterly, 54:1 (1997), 143–66, 166CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 Prime examples of seminal scholarship dedicated to the early modern African diaspora in Europe, none of which mention Yoḥannǝs, are Northrup, D., Africa's Discovery of Europe: 1450–1850 (New York, 2002)Google Scholar; and Earle, T. F. and Lowe, K. (eds.), Black Africans in Renaissance Europe (Cambridge, 2005)Google Scholar. Yoḥannǝs is also absent from the otherwise comprehensive Debrunner, H. W., Presence and Prestige, Africans in Europe: A History of Africans in Europe before 1918 (Basel, 1979)Google Scholar. More surprisingly, the monumental Encyclopedia Aethiopica (hereafter EA) includes only a one-line reference to Yoḥannǝs. See Uhlig, Siegbert and Bausi, Alessandro (eds.), EA, Volume IV (Wiesbaden, 2003–14), 530 Google Scholar. Passing references can be found in Wilkinson, R. J., Orientalism, Aramaic, and Kabbalah in the Catholic Reformation: The First Printing of the Syriac New Testament (Leiden, 2007), 68 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Fiaccadori, G., ‘Aethiopica minima’, Quaderni Utinensi, 7:13/14 (1989), 148 Google Scholar; Fiaccadori, G., ‘L'Etiopia, Venezia e l'Europa’, in, Di Salvo, M. (ed.), Nigra sum sed formosa: sacro e bellezza dell'Etiopia cristiana (Vicenza, 2009), 34 Google Scholar; Munro-Hay, S. C., Ethiopia Unveiled: Interaction between Two Worlds (Hollywood, 2006), 180 Google Scholar; De Lorenzi, J., ‘Red sea travelers in Mediterranean lands: Ethiopian scholars and early modern orientalism, ca. 1500–1668’, in Kavey, A. B. (ed.), World-Building and the Early Modern Imagination (New York, 2010), 174–80Google Scholar; and Baskins, C., ‘Popes, patriarchs, and print: representing Chaldeans in Renaissance Rome’, Renaissance Studies, 28:3 (2014), 413 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Yoḥannǝs is also briefly sketched in Salvadore, M., The African Prester John and the Birth of Ethiopian-European Relations 1402–1555 (New York, 2016), 194–7Google Scholar.

5 Renato Lefevre discusses Yoḥannǝs in many of his articles on the Ethiopians in Rome and Europe, in particular in Lefevre, Roma e la comunitá etiopica di Cipro nei secoli XV e XVI’, Rassegna di Studi Etiopici, 1:1 (1941), 7186 Google Scholar; and Lefevre, Documenti pontifici sui rapporti con l'Etiopia nei secoli XV e XVI’, Rassegna di Studi Etiopici, 5 (1947), 1741 Google Scholar. Enrico Cerulli, Orientalist and Fascist colonial administrator in Africa Orientale Italiana (AOI), referred to Yoḥannǝs in his monumental study on Ethiopians in the Holy Land: Cerulli, E., Etiopi in Palestina: storia della comunitá etiopica di Gerusalemme (Rome, 1943), 2, 110 Google Scholar. Incidentally, Enrico Cerulli's identification of Yoḥannǝs with ‘Yohannes Walda Qantorar’ is incorrect; the latter was a different Yoḥannǝs, who had been Santo Stefano's prior in the 1530s. Other Orientalists and Church historians offered only cursory references to Yoḥannǝs: Vida, G. L. Della, Ricerche sulla formazione del più antico fondo dei manoscritti orientali della Biblioteca Vaticana (Vatican City, 1939), 194–5Google Scholar; Guidi, I., ‘La prima stampa del Nuovo Testamento in etiopico, fatta in Roma nel 1548–1549’, Archivio della R. Societá Romana di Storia Patria, 9 (1886), 277–8Google Scholar; Beltrami, G., La Chiesa Caldea nel secolo dell'Unione (Rome, 1933), 62–6Google Scholar; and Hofmann, G., ‘L'Oriente nel Concilio di Trento’, Studia missionalia, 2:13 (1946), 3354 Google Scholar.

6 Unless otherwise noted, dates in parenthesis correspond to birth and death, except for heads of churches and states, in which case the dates delimit their time in office. Henrique was elevated titular Bishop of Utica on 5 May 1518. Although dated, the most detailed account of Henrique's experience is Filesi, T., Le relazioni tra il Regno del Congo e la Sede Apostolica nel XVI secolo (Como, 1968), 45–6Google Scholar. See also John K. Thornton's many contributions to the Kingdom of Kongo, in particular Thornton, J. K., ‘The development of an African catholic church in the kingdom of Kongo, 1491–1750’, The Journal of African History, 25:2 (1984), 147–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Examples of the misconception can be found in Debrunner, Presence and Prestige, Africans in Europe, 44; and Lowe, K. J. P., ‘Introduction: the black African presence in Renaissance Europe’, in Earle, T. F. and Lowe, K. J. P. (eds.), Black Africans in Renaissance Europe (Cambridge, 2005), 8 Google Scholar.

7 Processus super statu ecclesiae S. Salvatoris nationis Ethiopum in regno Cypri et civitate Nicosien. et qualitatibus Iohannis Baptistae Habascini electi episcopi dictae ecclesiae 1564, Archivum Secretum Vaticanum (ASV), Vatican City, Arm. I–XVIII, n. 2953 (hereafter Processus). For unknown reasons, the file was archived not in the Holy Office archive (now Archivio della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede [ACDF]), but in the ASV. The unusual location allowed Cerulli and Lefevre to access the file already in the 1930s, whereas the ACDF would only become accessible in the late 1990s. Because of its location, the file also benefited from the mammoth indexing project that Cardinal Giuseppe Garampi (1725–92) carried out as Prefect of ASV, which dedicated to Yoḥannǝs two of the index's 820,000 slips: ASV, Schedario Garampi (Vescovi), Indice 500, 158r; and Indice 491, 27v. The small handwritten slips must have alerted Cerulli and Lefevre to the existence of this proverbial needle in a haystack. On the index, see Burns, C., ‘Cardinal Giuseppe Garampi: an eighteenth-century pioneer in indexing’, The Indexer, 22:2 (2000), 61–5Google Scholar.

8 Giustificazioni di Tesoreria b.3, b.4, Archivio Camerale (I), Archivio di Stato di Roma (ASR). Yoḥannǝs to Täsfa Ṣǝyon, 15 Dec. 1548, Venice, Biblioteca Comunale degli Intronati, Siena (Italy), MS D, V, 13, 253, translated and discussed in Guidi, ‘La prima stampa del Nuovo Testamento in etiopico’. Vincenzo Contarini to Pius IV, n.d., ASV Arm. LXIV 34, 6r–7r. The documents pertaining to his dispatch have been edited in Dib, P., ‘Une mission en Orient sous le pontificat de Pie IV’, Revue de l'Orient Chrétien, 19 (1914), 266–7Google Scholar.

9 There are exceptions to be found in dated and not always rigorous contributionist historiography. See, for example, Rogers, J. A., Nature Knows No Color-Line; Research into the Negro Ancestry in the White Race (New York, 1952)Google Scholar; Rogers, J. A., Sex and Race: Negro-Caucasian Mixing in All Ages and All Lands (New York, 1940)Google Scholar; Sertima, African Presence in Early Europe.

10 Zeleza, P. T., ‘African diasporas: toward a global history’, African Studies Review, 53:1 (2010), 5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

11 Zeleza, P. T., ‘The challenges of studying the African diasporas’, African Sociological Review, 12:2 (2008), 5 Google Scholar.

12 Iyob, R., ‘Reflections on African diaspora in the Mediterranean world’, in Knight, F. W. and Iyob, R. (eds.), Dimensions of African and Other Diasporas (Kingston, 2014), 44 Google Scholar.

13 Shepperson, G., ‘The African abroad or the African diaspora’, in Ranger, T. O. (ed.), Emerging Themes of African History (Nairobi, 1966), 7693 Google Scholar. For a discussion of Shepperson's legacy, see the seminal E. A. Alpers, ‘Defining the African Diaspora’, Center for Comparative Analysis Workshop, University of California, 25 Oct. 2001; and Wilson, C., ‘Conceptualizing the African diaspora’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 17:2 (1997), 118–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14 The advances in the literature have been too vast to attempt even a preliminary list. Works of synthesis with excellent bibliographies are: Manning, P., The African Diaspora: A History Through Culture (New York, 2009)Google Scholar; Gomez, M. A., Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora (Cambridge, 2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Alpers, E. A., African Diasporas: A Global Perspective (London, 2010)Google Scholar; Patterson, T. R. and Kelley, R. D. G., ‘Unfinished migrations: reflections on the African diaspora and the making of the modern world’, African Studies Review, 43:1 (2000), 1145 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 See, for example, the recent Ali, O. H., Malik Ambar: Power and Slavery across the Indian Ocean (New York, 2016)Google Scholar; and Hopper, M. S., Slaves of One Master: Globalization and Slavery in Arabia in the Age of Empire (New Haven, 2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Kate Lowe's groundbreaking article on free Africans in early modern Venice, which makes one wonder about the existence of similar communities in other cities. Lowe, K., ‘Visible lives: black gondoliers and other black Africans in Renaissance Venice’, Renaissance Quarterly, 66:2 (2013), 412–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The sheer amount of sources Saunders uncovered in Portugal is also awaiting for additional research, de, A. C. Saunders, C. M., A Social History of Black Slaves and Freedmen in Portugal, 1441–1555 (Cambridge, 1982)Google Scholar.

16 The notion of ‘diasporic stream’ is borrowed from Palmer, C. A., ‘Defining and studying the modern African diaspora’, The Journal of Negro History, 85:1/2 (2000), 27–8Google Scholar.

17 For a comprehensive account and bibliography, see Salvadore, The African Prester John.

18 This diaspora is markedly distinct from the Ethiopian slave diaspora in the Arab and Indian Ocean worlds; for an introduction and a comprehensive bibliography, see ‘Slavery’, EA IV, 673–81.

19 Cerulli, Etiopi in Palestina, 1:31–7; 2:1–18.

20 For accounts on Santo Stefano other than Leonessa's, see the bibliography in ‘Santo Stefano dei Mori’, in EA IV, 528–32.

21 Processus, 19r.

22 Processus, 19r: ‘Gabra Christos’ and ‘Maria’.

23 In light of Yoḥannǝs's personal chronology, and Qansuh al-Ghawri's reputation for despotism and oppression, the identification appears certain. See Petry, C. F., Twilight of Majesty: The Reigns of the Mamlūk Sultans Al-Ashrāf Qāytbāy and Qanṣūh Al-Ghawrī in Egypt (Seattle, 1993), 119–32Google Scholar. Pace da Leonessa, M., ‘Un vescovo abissino del secolo XVI’, in Etiopico, P. C. (ed.), Consacrazione episcopale di Mons: Chidanè Mariam Cassá eletto vescova titolare di Tibari: 3 agosto 1930 (Vatican City, 1930), 51 Google Scholar, which identifies this persecution with the Adali conquest of Ethiopia, the expression ‘Egyptian Sultan’ refers to the Mamluk Sultanate and indicates that Yoḥannǝs's parents moved to Cyprus from Egypt. At the time, Adali campaigns against Ethiopia were circumscribed to the frontier zone on the Eastern Highlands and did not affect Amhara, in the west, until the 1530s.

24 Africanus, L., The History and Description of Africa and of the Notable Things Therein Contained, Volume III, Book Eight, eds. Brown, R. and Pory, J. (London, 1896), 923–4Google Scholar.

25 Processus, 7r and 8r.

26 Yoḥannǝs referred to his mother as Egyptian also in the preliminary deposition, without adding that she was indeed of Ethiopian descent: Processus, 10r.

27 Processus, 7r. The reference to the ancient kingdom of the Nile Valley is difficult to illuminate as it had long vanished. One possible explanaton is that the interrogator or the copyst filtered Yoḥannǝs's words through his own haphazard historical and geographical notions of the region. Alternatively, Yoḥannǝs's father could have been from an Amhara family who had left Ethiopia before his birth and lived in the upper Nile Valley before moving to Egypt.

28 Processus, 7r: ‘Stefano’, ‘Thomas’, ‘Pietro’, ‘Michele’.

29 Processus, 19v. In his two depositions with the Holy Office, Yoḥannǝs claimed to have been ‘over the age of 50’ (9r), and about ‘fifty or fifty-five’ (19r). Given that he was already in India in 1526 and that he could have not left Cyprus later than 1524, at which time he claimed to have been 15, he was probably born around 1509 and was therefore closer to 55 than 50.

30 The meeting took place in Pisa in 1516. See Razzi, S., Vite dei santi, e beati cosi uomini, come donne del sacro ordine de’ FF: Predicanti (Firenze, 1577), 294 Google Scholar.

31 Africanus, The History and Description of Africa, 1:125, with original spelling. The reference is most certainly to Ethiopian monks with tattooed, rather than branded, crosses on their foreheads. Branding and scarification, common among some non-Christian populations of the Horn, is not practiced by Highland Christians, see ‘Body Modification’, EA, 1:278–83.

32 Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (BAV) Vatican City, R.I.IV.2218, 227–34.

33 In Leonessa, Santo Stefano Maggiore degli Abissini, 202–4.

34 Upon Gäbrä Krǝstos's death in Rome, the Ethiopian cleric Samuᵓel told the Holy Office that ‘[Yoḥannǝs] is son of an Indian friar who is buried in Rome in the hospice of the Indians’, Processus, 6v. Likewise Giyorgis, Processus, 7r. For most of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Ethiopians would be referred to as ‘Indians’ because of the identification of East Africa as one of the three Indies. See Relaño, F., The Shaping of Africa (Burlington, 2002), 172 Google Scholar.

35 Several Ethiopians, among them those who had transited through Pisa in 1516, left traces of their pilgrimage on the Camino. See Salvadore, The African Prester John, 39.

36 For a starting point on the copious literature on Prester John, see Beckingham, C. F. and Hamilton, B. (eds.), Prester John, the Mongols, and the Ten Lost Tribes (Aldershot, 1996)Google Scholar. For the circumstances of Prester John's Ethiopianization, see Salvadore, The African Prester John.

37 The key source on the embassy is the edited narrative of its chaplain: Alvares, F. et al. , The Prester John of the Indies; a True Relation of the Lands of the Prester John, Being the Narrative of the Portuguese Embassy to Ethiopia in 1520 (Cambridge, 1961)Google Scholar.

38 Processus, 19v.

39 Alvares et al., The Prester John of the Indies, 122.

40 On Galvão's involvement in Portuguese-Ethiopian relations, see Aubin, J., ‘Duarte Galvão’, Arquivos do Centro Cultural Português, 9 (1975), 4385 Google Scholar.

41 Alvares et al., The Prester John of the Indies, 484–5.

42 Ibid . 491.


43 An annotated bibliography can be found in Rogers, F., The Quest for Eastern Christians (Minneapolis, 1962), 185–93Google Scholar.

44 See de Góis, D., Fides, Religio, Moresqve Æthiopvm svb Imperio Preciosi Ioannis (Louvain, 1540), 44, 5394 Google Scholar; and Ṣägga Zäᵓab to Lǝbnä Dǝngǝl, 7 Sept. 1533, Lisbon, in Basset, R., ‘Deux lettres éthiopiennes du XVIe siècle’, Giornale della Società Asiatica Italiana, 3 (1889), 5879 Google Scholar.

45 Dom Martinho (1490–1547) was the natural son of Dom Afonso (1440–1522), bishop of Evora and brother of the king. See Bietenholz, P. G. and Deutscher, T. B., Contemporaries of Erasmus: A Biographical Register of the Renaissance and Reformation (Toronto, 2003), 396 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Dom Martinho updated Joao III on their whereabouts from Genoa on 17 November 1533: Dom Martinho to Joäo III, 17 Nov. 1533, Genoa, in da Silva, L. A. R., Corpo diplomatico Portuguez contendo os actos e relações politicas e diplomaticas de Portugal com as diversas potencias do mundo desde o seculo XVI até os nossos dias (Lisbon, 1865), 2:412–13Google Scholar.

46 Pastor, L., The History of the Popes, from the Close of the Middle Ages, Volume X, ed. Kerr, R. F. (London, 1910), ch. 7, 204–27Google Scholar.

47 Of course, the reality of Lǝbnä Dǝngǝl's intentions was altogether different: the sovereign was seeking Rome and Portugal's military and technological support against his Muslim foes, but his Roman and Portuguese interlocutors presented his deferential and friendly words as a declaration of obedience to Rome. This is probably the reason why Ṣägga Zäᵓab was forbidden from joining the embassy: as a high-ranking Ethiopian cleric, he would have never allowed the misreading of his sovereign's words. In his writings, Ṣägga Zäᵓab presented himself as the legitimate ambassador and denounced the injustices he suffered at the Portuguese court. On Ṣägga Zäᵓab, see Davis, A. J., ‘Background to the Zaga Zaab embassy: an Ethiopian diplomatic mission to Portugal (1529–1539)’, Studia, 32 (1971), 211302 Google Scholar; and Salvadore, The African Prester John, 147–75.

48 Processus, 19r–20r.

49 L'Ambasciaria di David, re dell’ Etiopia, al Santissimo S. N. Clemente Papa VII (Bologna, 1533), Aii v.

50 Expectedly, Yoḥannǝs, who was only a young bystander, is referenced neither in the pamphlet that commemorated the hearing nor in the Ecclesiastical Annals. See Baronio, C. and Rinaldi, O., Annales ecclesiastici ab anno MCXCVIII ubi desinit Cardinalis Baronius, Volume XV (Luca, 1753), 274–9Google Scholar; and L'Ambasciaria di David, re dell’ Etiopia, al Santissimo S. N. Clemente Papa VII.

51 The Portuguese ambassador was in Rome until 1535, when he was recalled to Portugal, whereas Alvares probably died in Rome shortly after his arrival. On Martinho, see Bietenholz and Deutscher, Contemporaries of Erasmus, 296. On Alvares's whereabouts after the hearing, see Salvadore, The African Prester John, 165.

52 Processus, 20r.

53 Processus, 9r.

54 Processus, 6r; for a discussion of the recriminations, see Cerulli, Etiopi in Palestina, 9–11.

55 Processus, 7r.

56 Gleason, E. G., Gasparo Contarini: Venice, Rome, and Reform (Berkeley, 1993), 67 Google Scholar. On the Contarini's reach throughout the Stato da Mar, see O'Connell, M., Men of Empire: Power and Negotiation in Venice's Maritime State (Baltimore, 2009), 3974 Google Scholar; and Dursteler, E. R., Venetians in Constantinople: Nation, Identity, and Coexistence in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Baltimore, 2006), 2260 Google Scholar.

57 The licensing had also seen the involvement of the papal nuncio Girolamo Verallo (1497–1555): Processus, 20r.

58 Excellent introductions to curial politics and the struggle for reform are: Furey, C. M., Erasmus, Contarini, and the Religious Republic of Letters (Cambridge, 2006)Google Scholar; and Robinson, A. P., The Career of Cardinal Giovanni Morone (1509–1580): Between Council and Inquisition (Farnham, 2012)Google Scholar.

59 Góis, Fides, Religio, Moresqve Æthiopvm. For a masterful discussion of Fides’s content and fate, see Marcocci, G., ‘Gli umanisti italiani e l'impero portoghese: una interpretazione della Fides, Religio, Moresqve Æthiopvm di Damião de Góis’, Rinascimento, 45 (2005), 307–66Google Scholar.

60 Góis's association with the Ethiopian and feuds with Jesuit personalities cost him his career and ultimately his freedom. On Góis, see Hirsch, E. F., Damião de Góis; the Life and Thought of a Portuguese Humanist, 1502–1574 (The Hague, 1967)Google Scholar; and Lawrance, J., ‘The Middle Indies: Damião de Góis on Prester John and the Ethiopians’, Renaissance Studies, 6:3–4 (1992), 306–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

61 Processus, 20r.

62 Gleason, Gasparo Contarini, 139–52. The gathering of information on Ethiopia extended beyond the realm of theology. Contarini's secretary, the humanist Ludovico Beccadelli (1501–72), is known to have worked on an incomplete Italian translation of Alvares's manuscript. See Almagiá, R., Contributi alla storia della conoscenza dell'Etiopia (Padua, 1941), 937 Google Scholar.

63 Processus, 20v. The moniker comes from Theate, the Latin name for Chieti, the location of Carafa's episcopal seat.

64 Among Paul IV's most fanatical initiatives were the burning of the Talmud in 1553 and the creation of the Jewish ghetto. See Wilkinson, Orientalism, Aramaic, and Kabbalah, 91–4.

65 Bethencourt, F., The Inquisition: A Global History, 1478–1834 (Cambridge, 2009), 22 Google Scholar.

66 Processus, 20v.

67 Carafa's long-lasting patronage is confirmed by a variety of financial transactions recorded throughout his pontificate. Yoḥannǝs, listed in the ledgers as either as ‘Giovanni Batista Africano’ or ‘Giovanni Batista Indiano’ or as Paul IV's ‘cappellano [chaplain]’ or ‘familiar [familiar]’, received subsidies in multiple occasions. See Giustificazioni di Tesoreria, b.3, Archivio Camerale (I), ASR, fasc. 2, 6v, 7r, 7v. A partial list of transactions is available in Lefevre, ‘Documenti pontifici sui rapporti con l'Etiopia’, 37–41. Confirming Yoḥannǝs's familiarity with Carafa is also the testimony of Giovanni da Torano, who told the Holy Office he had first met Yoḥannǝs at Cardinal Carafa's residence: Processus, 17v.

68 Valer Petrus Ethyops, Testamentum Novum cum epistola Pauli ad Hebreos tantum, cum concordantiis Euanglistarum Eusebii… (1549); Abbas, Petrus, Modus baptizandi … (Rome, 1549)Google Scholar; Missa qva Ethiopes (Rome, 1549). On Täsfa Ṣǝyon, see Lefevre, R., ‘Documenti e notizie su Tasfa Seyon e la sua attivita romana nel sec. XVI’, Rassegna di Studi Etiopici, 24 (1969), 74133 Google Scholar. For more recent interpretations, see De Lorenzi, ‘Red Sea travelers in Mediterranean lands’, and Salvadore, The African Prester John, 167–98.

69 Yoḥannǝs to Täsfa Ṣǝyon, 15 Dec. 1548, Venice, in Guidi, ‘“La prima stampa del Nuovo Testamento in etiopico”’, 277. On Gualtieri, papal secretary and scholar, and Geronimo or Bernardino Sandri, a scholar of Greek antiquities, see ‘Gualtieri, Pietro Paolo’, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani; and Bernardinello, S., Autografi greci e greco-latini in Occidente (Padua, 1979), 27 Google Scholar.

70 Guglielmo Sirleto to Marcello Cervini, 5 Sept. 1547, Rome, ASV, Vat. Lat.1677, 350r.

71 Täsfa Ṣǝyon refers to ‘Bernardini Sandri cremonensis’ in his dedication of Modus Baptizandi. See Petrus Abbas, Modus baptizandi, iii.

72 He was referred to as prior in Pius IV to Giovanni Morone, 20 Feb. 1560, Rome, ASV Arm. XLIV 10, 65rv.

73 The request is referred to in the brief confirming Morone's appointment: Pius IV to Giovanni Morone, 20 Feb. 1560, Rome, ASV Arm. XLIV 10, 65rv. The document is partially transcribed in Pastor, The History of the Popes 10, 500. See also Lefevre, ‘Roma e la comunitá etiopica di Cipro’, 71.

74 Yoḥannǝs's responsibility for translating the letter finds confirmation at the bottom of the Latin translation: ‘Translatae in latinum sermonem a Ioanne Baptista Abyssino’, Gabriel VII to Paul IV, 17 Oct. 1555, Cairo, in Beltrami, La Chiesa Caldea nel secolo dell’ Unione, 180. The patriarch's letter was in reply to the mission of a papal representative who had reached Cairo in 1554. See Beltrami, La Chiesa Caldea nel secolo dell’ Unione, 27–34.

75 Pius IV to Gabriel VII, 17 Feb. 1561, Rome, ASV Arm. XLIV 11, 26v–27r.

76 Yohannan Sulaqa to Julius III, 27 Dec. 1553, Mosul, in Beltrami, La Chiesa Caldea nel secolo dell’ Unione, 1–15, 148. On the schism and on the confusion surrounding the naming of the two churches, see Baum, W. and Winkler, D. W., The Church of the East: A Concise History (London, 2003), 15; 112–14Google Scholar.

77 Murre-van den Berg, H. H. L., ‘The patriarchs of the church of the East from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries’, Hugoye, Journal of Syriac Studies, 2:2 (1999), 250–1Google Scholar.

78 Abdisu and Amulio, M., R. D. patriarchae orientalium Assyriorum de sacro oecumenico Tridentini Concilio (Riva del Garda, 1562), 5 Google Scholar.

79 Salvadore, The African Prester John, 21–35, 131–9.

80 Vincenzo Contarini to Pius IV, n.d., ASV Arm. LXIV 34, 6rv.

81 Vincenzo Contarini to Pius IV, n.d., ASV Arm. LXIV 34, 6r.

82 On Millenarianism, see Marcocci, G., ‘Conscience and empire: politics and moral theology in the early modern Portuguese world’, Journal of Early Modern History, 18:5 (2014), 473–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, From the Tagus to the Ganges (Oxford, 2005)Google Scholar; Marcocci, ‘Gli umanisti italiani e l'impero portoghese’, 347–9.

83 In his memorandum, Contarini referred to the exchanges between Ethiopian rulers and pontiffs such as Eugene IV (1431–47), Clement VII (1523–34), and Julius III (1550–55): Vincenzo Contarini to Pius IV, n.d., ASV Arm. LXIV 34, 6r–7r.

84 Casale, The Ottoman Age of Exploration (Oxford, 2010), 107–8Google Scholar. On these geopolitical developments, see also Disney, A. R., A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire: From Beginnings to 1807 (Cambridge, 2009), 125–36Google Scholar; and Newitt, Malyn, A History of Portuguese Overseas Expansion, 1400–1668 (London, 2005), 108–47Google Scholar.

85 See Garretson, P. P., ‘A note on relations between Ethiopia and the Kingdom of Aragon in the fifteenth century’, Rassegna di Studi Etiopici, 37 (1993), 3744 Google Scholar; Marinescu, La Politique Orientale d'Alfonse V d'Aragon; Cerone, F., ‘La Politica Orientale di Alfonso d'Aragona’, Archivio Storico per le Provincie Napoletane, 27 (1902), 393 Google Scholar; and Salvadore, The African Prester John, 36–53.

86 On the Portuguese intervention in Ethiopia, see Salvadore, The African Prester John, 180–4. For the Jesuits in Ethiopia, the most comprehensive work is Martínez d'Alós-Moner, A., Envoys of a Human God: The Jesuit Mission to Christian Ethiopia, 1557–1632 (Leiden, 2015)Google Scholar.

87 Contarini to Morone, 12 May 1577, Ethiopia, Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu (ARSI) GOA 39, 141r–142v, also in Beccari, C. (ed.), Rerum aethiopicarum scriptores occidentales inediti a saeculo XVI ad XIX (Rome, 1910), 10: 293–6Google Scholar. Contarini claimed to have written to Morone from Cairo in 1571 and then again from Ethiopia in 1575, but the two letters have yet to be found.

88 Contarini to Morone, 12 May 1577, Ethiopia, ARSI GOA 39, 141r.

89 Posthumous evidence suggests that he lived in Ethiopia for more than a decade. Almagiá, Roberto, ‘Un mercante anconetano in Etiopia alla fine del secolo XVI (Gerolamo Cherubini)’, in Almagiá, R. (ed.), Contributi alla storia della conoscenza dell'Etiopia (Padua, 1941), 3948 Google Scholar.

90 Ghisleri ascended to the papacy in 1566 as Pope Pius V. The witnesses were deposed twice, first by the canon lawyer Girolamo Parisetto, then by Ghisleri himself. The depositions are in Processus, 1r–10v; 165r–24r.

91 They accused Yoḥannǝs and his brothers Tomaso and Stefano of having appropriated Church resources: Processus, 6r–8v. For a discussion of the controversy, see Cerulli, Etiopi in Palestina, 2:9–11. ‘Spurio’ is not to be translated with the English ‘spurious’ in the sense of illegitimate, whose Italian equivalent would be ‘bastardo’, but rather as of mixed parentage. In fact, the monks who used the term ‘spurio’ did so in relation to his parents’ ethnic identity, as they alleged that Yoḥannǝs's mother was Egyptian (see note above). Had they wanted to question his illegitimacy, they would have used the same term as Johannes de Torano, who argued that Yoḥannǝs could not be ‘bastardo’ because the Coptic bishop of Cyprus had seen fit to ordain him: Processus, 17r.

92 Pius IV, Consistorial Act of 7 February 1564, Rome: Processus, 34r.

93 Giacomo Soranzo to Pius IV, n.d.: Processus, 14r–15r. The fact that Yoḥannǝs was the only bishop ever appointed to the position suggests that the elevation was a means to a different end, and that Soranzo's plea was a perfunctory act of clearance by the island's sovereign authority. For a profile on Soranzo, see Albèri, Eugenio (ed.), Relazioni degli ambasciatori Veneti al senato durante il secolo decimosesto, Volumes X, II, IV (Florence, 1857), 123–5Google Scholar.

94 Pius IV to Michael I, Feb. 1565, Rome, in Dib, ‘Une mission en Orient sous le pontificat de Pie IV’, 25. The arrival of Abgar in Rome in 1562 was a response to Pius IV's dispatch of a representative to Armenia in 1561. See Hofmann, ‘L'Oriente nel Concilio di Trento’, 42; and Baskins, ‘Popes, patriarchs, and print’, 414–15.

95 Abgar's profession of faith and interrogation (10 Nov. 1564 and 13 Feb. 1565) are in Baronio and Rinaldi, Annales Ecclesiastici ab Anno MCXCVIII ubi desinit Cardinalis Baronius 15, 524–7. On Abgar, see Leonessa, ‘Un vescovo abissino del secolo XVI’, 54; Dib, ‘Une mission en Orient sous le pontificat de Pie IV’, 26; Metaksya Grigoryan, ‘Beginnings of early Armenian printing in Venice and Rome in the sixteenth century’ (unpublished MA thesis, Central European University, 2014), 11; and Beltrami, La Chiesa Caldea nel secolo dell’ Unione, 187.

96 Pius IV to Nicholas, 23 Feb. 1565, Rome, in Dib, ‘Une mission en Orient sous le pontificat de Pie IV’, 25.

97 Pius IV to Abdisho, 23 Feb. 1565, Rome, in Ibid. 26. Neemas of Mardin, also known as Ignatius XVII: Pius IV to Ignatius XVII, 28 Feb. 1565, Rome, in Ibid. 273–6. Pius IV to Musa al-Akari, 23 Feb. 1565, Rome, in Ibid. On the patriarch, see Moosa, M., The Maronites in History (Syracuse, 1986), 280 Google Scholar.

98 Pius IV to Michael I, 22 Feb. 1565, Rome, in Dib, ‘Une mission en Orient sous le pontificat de Pie IV’, 268. Abgar's profession of faith notes that ‘Jo: Baptista Aethiops Interpretatus est.’ Yoḥannǝs is also recorded as a translator of the letter that the Catholicos had sent to Rome in 1563 to confirm his representative's arrival: Michael I to Pius IV, 1 Apr. 1563, both in Baronio and Rinaldi, Annales Ecclesiastici ab anno MCXCVIII ubi desinit Cardinalis Baronius 15, 525–7.

99 Pius IV to Ignatius XVII, 28 Feb. 1565, Rome, in Ibid. 276.

100 Pius IV to Michael I, 22 Feb. 1565, Rome, in Ibid. 268.

101 Pius IV to Michael I, 22 Feb. 1565, Rome, in Dib, ‘Une mission en Orient sous le pontificat de Pie IV’, 268.

102 Pius IV, 10 Mar. 1565, Rome, in Ibid. 29. Yoḥannǝs was also entrusted with two letters for the Archbishop of Goa and the Bishop of Cochin, which were to be delivered to Patriarch Abdisho, whose ecclesiastical authority was supposed to extend over the Malabar Coast. See Pius IV to Archbishop of Goa, 28 Feb. 1565, Rome; and Pius IV to Bishop of Cochin, 28 Feb. 1565, Rome, in Ibid. 271–3. On Rome's complex relations with the Christian community of the Malabar Coast, see Baum and Winkler, The Church of the East, 113–14.

103 This is known thanks to a reference in a letter that Abgar's son addressed to Pius V (1566–72): Marcus Antonius Armenius to Pius V, n.d., Rome, ASV Arm. LXIV 34, 93r.

104 Confirming Yoḥannǝs's death in Cyprus is the patriarch of Antioch, at the time of his visit to Rome in 1568, Lefevre, ‘Roma e la comunitá etiopica di Cipro’, 81.

105 Wright, E. R., The Epic of Juan Latino: Dilemmas of Race and Religion in Renaissance Spain (Toronto, 2016)Google Scholar.

106 No other black African would be elevated bishop in the Roman Catholic Church again until 1939, when the Ugandan Joseph Nnakabaale Kiwanuka was made titular bishop of Thibica: ‘Joseph Nnakabaale Kiwanuka’, in Akyeampong, E. K. and Gates, H. L., Dictionary of African Biography, Volume I (Oxford, 2012), 399400 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. A more complex case is that of James Augustine Healy (1830–1900), the first Roman Catholic bishop of mixed Irish and African-American descent, who was elevated bishop of Portland in 1875. See O'Toole, J. M., Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820–1920 (Amherst, 2003)Google Scholar.

107 Gomez, Reversing Sail, 2.

108 Manning, The African Diaspora, 5.

109 Cohen, R., Global Diasporas: An Introduction (London, 2001), 4 Google Scholar. Cohen's definition is by and large derived from Safran, W., ‘Diasporas in modern societies: myths of homeland and return’, Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, 1:1 (1991), 8399 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

110 Tibebu, T., ‘Ethiopia: the “anomaly” and “paradox” of Africa’, Journal of Black Studies, 2:4 (1996), 414 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Marcus, H., ‘The black men who turned white’, Archiv Orientali, 39 (1971), 155–66Google Scholar.

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