There’s a VERY interesting link on BoingBoing today about an article on the Ark of the Covenant at Smithsonian.com. Below is an excerpt and link. It’s a long read, but well worth it.
The fabled Ark of the Covenant may not be in some nondescript crate in a massive US government warehouse but rather in the small Ethiopian town of Aksum where it is guarded by a virgin monk who can never leave the chapel where it sits. And nobody else can see it either. Smithsonian magazine sent Paul Raffaele to investigate. From Smithsonian:
I asked (His Holiness Abuna Paulos, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) if the ark in Ethiopia resembles the one described in the Bible: almost four feet long, just over two feet high and wide, surmounted by two winged cherubs facing each other across its heavy lid, forming the “mercy seat,” or footstool for the throne of God. Paulos shrugged. “Can you believe that even though I’m head of the Ethiopian church, I’m still forbidden from seeing it?” he said. “The guardian of the ark is the only person on earth who has that peerless honor…”
(We) made our way toward the office of the Neburq-ed, Aksum’s high priest, who works out of a tin shed at a seminary close by the ark chapel. As the church administrator in Aksum, he would be able to tell us more about the guardian of the ark.
“We’ve had the guardian tradition from the beginning,” the high priest told us. “He prays constantly by the ark, day and night, burning incense before it and paying tribute to God. Only he can see it; all others are forbidden to lay eyes on it or even go close to it.” Over the centuries, a few Western travelers have claimed to have seen it; their descriptions are of tablets like those described in the Book of Exodus. But the Ethiopians say that is inconceivable-—the visitors must have been shown fakes.