Until 1888, The Ethiopian Church satisfied itself with a monastery and church built on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City. In 1888, Ethiopian Emperor Johannes bought a large plot of land well outside the city walls, on what is today Hanevi’im Street and began construction of a new church and monastery, which they called Debra Gannet. He used some war booty from his battles with Ottomans and their Egyptian surrogates, to buy land in Jerusalem. The church was built in 1893 by the Ethiopian emperor Johannes I. He wanted his people to have a presence in modern Jerusalem in addition to their church near the Holy Sepulcher. As he died fighting Sudanese/Dervish expansionists in 1889, his successor, Emperor Menelik completed the construction of the Church named Debra Gannet located on what was called “Ethiopian Street”.
The Ethiopian Church is dissimilar from the standard layout of churches in the West; as a replacement for of the usual corridor leading up to the altar, Debra Gannet is a circular structure, radiating outward from the altar in the church’s very center. The altar is at its centre is to be seen but not touched as one walk around the Domed Structure. Visitors have to remove their shoes before entering the church.