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Frumentius (Ge'ez: ፍሬምናጦስ; died c. 383) was a Phoenician Christian missionary and the first bishop of Axum who brought Christianity to the Kingdom of Aksum.[1] He is sometimes known by other names, such as Abuna ("Our Father") and Aba Salama.[2]

St Frumentius.jpg
Saint Frumentius of the Axumite Kingdom
Bishop, Confessor and Apostle to Ethiopia
Born4th century
Tyre, Eastern Roman Empire (modern-day Lebanon)
Diedc. 383
Kingdom of Aksum
Venerated inRoman Catholicism
Oriental Orthodoxy
Eastern Orthodoxy
Anglican Communion
PatronageKingdom of Aksum

He was ethnically a Phoenician, according to Rufinus, born in Tyre. As a boy, he was captured with his brother, and they became slaves to the King of Axum. He freed them shortly before his death, and they were invited to educate his young heir. They also began to teach Christianity in the region. Later, Frumentius traveled to Alexandria, Egypt, where he appealed to have a bishop appointed and missionary priests sent south to Axum. Thereafter, he was appointed bishop and established the Church in Ethiopia, converting many local people, as well as the king. His appointment began a tradition that the Patriarch of Alexandria appoint the bishops of Ethiopia.[3]


According to the fourth-century historian Tyrannius Rufinus (x.9),[4] who cites Frumentius' brother Edesius as his authority, as children (ca. 316) Frumentius and Edesius accompanied their uncle Meropius from their birthplace of Tyre (now in Lebanon) on a voyage to Ethiopia. When their ship stopped at one of the harbors of the Red Sea, local people massacred the whole crew, sparing the two boys, who were taken as slaves to the King of Axum. The two boys soon gained the favour of the king, who raised them to positions of trust. Shortly before his death, the king freed them. The widowed queen, however, prevailed upon them to remain at the court and assist her in the education of the young heir, Ezana, and in the administration of the kingdom during the prince's minority. They remained and (especially Frumentius) used their influence to spread Christianity. First they encouraged the Christian merchants present in the country to practise their faith openly, and they helped them find places "where they could come together for prayer according to the Roman Rite";[5] later they converted some of the natives.[1]

When the prince came of age, Edesius returned to Tyre,[4] where he stayed and was ordained a priest. Frumentius, eager for the conversion of Ethiopia, accompanied his brother as far as Alexandria, where he requested Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, to send a bishop and some priests as missionaries to Ethiopia. By Athanasius' own account, he believed Frumentius to be the most suitable person for the job and consecrated him as bishop,[6] traditionally in the year 328, or according to others, between 340 and 346.

Frumentius returned to Ethiopia, where he erected his episcopal see at Axum, then converted and baptized King Ezana, who built many churches and spread Christianity throughout Ethiopia. Frumentius established the first monastery of Ethiopia, called Dabba Selama in Dogu'a Tembien. The people called Frumentius Kesate Birhan (Revealer of Light) and Abba Salama (Father of Peace). He became the first Abune, a title given to the head of the Ethiopian Church.

In about 356, the Emperor Constantius II wrote to King Ezana and his brother Saizana, requesting them to replace Frumentius as bishop with Theophilos the Indian, who supported the Arian position, as did the emperor. Frumentius had been appointed by Athanasius, a leading opponent of Arianism. The king refused the request.[7][8]

Ethiopian traditions credit him with the first Ge'ez translation of the New Testament, and being involved in the development of Ge'ez script from an abjad (consonantal-only) into an abugida (syllabic).

Feast dateEdit

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church celebrate the feast of Abba Salama's consecration on Taḫśaś (the 4th month of Ethiopian or Coptic calendar) 18 and departure Hamle (the 12th month of Ethiopian or Coptic calendar) 26.[9]

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria celebrates the feast of Frumentius on 18 December,[10] the Eastern Orthodox Church on 30 November[11] and the Catholic Church on 20 July.[12]

In the 20th century, Lutherans mistakenly claimed that Saint Frumentius was venerated on 1 August in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church[13] without providing any evidence for this.


Frumentius is regarded as the patron saint of the former Kingdom of Aksum, and its contemporary territories.

He is the patron saint of St Frumentius Theological College, the Anglican seminary in Ethiopia.[14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Adejumobi, Saheed A. (2007). The History of Ethiopia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-313-32273-0.
  2. ^ Alban Butler, Paul Burns (1995). Butler's Lives of the Saints. p. 191. ISBN 086012259X.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  3. ^ Stuart Munro-Hay (2002). Ethiopia, the Unknown Land. IB Tauris. p. 20.
  4. ^ a b   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Frumentius". Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 270.
  5. ^ Cardinal Paulos Tzadua on St. Frumentius and the Liturgy of the Ethiopian Church
  6. ^ Athanasius, Epistola ad Constantinum
  7. ^ "Letter of Constantius to the Ethiopians against Frumentius", Bible Suite, Christian Booksheld
  8. ^ "Frumentius of Axum", Blackwell Reference Online
  9. ^ Budge, E. A. Wallis. Synaxarium: The Bool of the Saints of The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (PDF). p. 222. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Date of Feast/Consecration as Bishop of Ethiopia". Archived from the original on 2008-01-19. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
  11. ^ "Friday, November 30, 2018". Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  12. ^ Martyrologium Romanum, Editio Altera, (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2004), p. 401 (#5 on July 20). "In Æthiopia, sancti Frumentii, episcopi, qui primum ibi captivus, deinde, episcopus a sancto Athanasio ordinatus, Evangelium in ea regione propagavit."
  13. ^ Pfatteicher, Philip H. (1980). Festivals and Commemorations: Handbook to the Calendar in Lutheran Book of Worship. Parasource Marketing & Distribution Limited. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-8066-1757-2.
  14. ^ "St Frumentius Theological College". The Jerusalem and the Middle East Church Association. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  • Martyrologium Romanum, Editio Altera, (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2004), p. 401

External linksEdit