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The Lion of Judah Statue

Designed by the French sculptor Georges Gardet in 1930, the statue of the lion of Judah was erected on November 2, 1930, on the occasion of the coronation of Emperor Hailé Selassie l. The sculpture of the Lion of Judah, in gilded bronze, is placed on a black granite pedestal decorated with relief portraits of Menelik II, Haile Selassie I, Zewditu, and Ras Makonnen Wolde Mikael. But soon after its erection it was looted by Italians in 1935 and placed in Rome next to the massive Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. In 1938, during anniversary celebrations of the proclamation of the Italian Empire, Zerai Deress, a young Ethiopian, spotted the statue and defiantly interrupted proceedings to kneel and pray before it. After police verbally and physically attempted to stop his prayers, he rose and attacked the armed Italians with his sword while screaming ‘the Lion of Judah is avenged!’ He seriously injured several officers (some reports say he killed five) before he was shot. Although he died seven years later in an Italian prison, his legend lives on in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Lion of Judah Monument was eventually returned to Addis Ababa in the 1960s and erected in its former place of the square of the Addis Ababa railway station.