The whereabouts of the fabled biblical ark said to have magical powers and bring death to anyone who touches it has been a mystery for thousands of years.
For centuries, Ethiopian Christians have claimed the Ark of the Covenant rests in a chapel in the small town of Aksum.
It is said to have arrived nearly 3,000 years ago and has been guarded by a succession of virgin monks who are forbidden to set foot outside the chapel grounds until they die.
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The Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion reputedly houses the ark – a casket of gilded wood containing stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, according to the Bible.
It was said to have been engraved by God for Moses on Mount Sinai, according to the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament.
The Ark was constructed by the Israelites while they were camping out in the Sinai Desert, after they fled Egypt, Live Science reports.
But the biblical box – said to have a number of magical powers – vanished when the Babylonians conquered Jeruselum in 587 B.C.
One story tells how the Jordan River stopped flowing and remained still while a group of priests carrying the ark crossed the river.
Other tales describe how the Israelites took it with them into battle where the powers of the ark helped them defeat their enemies.
When the ark was captured by the Philistines, outbreaks of tumors and disease afflicted them, forcing the Philistines to return the ark to the Israelites.
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Some stories describe how death would come to anyone who touched the ark or looked inside it.
The ark was frequently moved across the world, according to the bible, but eventually it called Ancient Israel its home.
According to the Book of Maccabees, it was hidden in a cave on Mount Nebo by the prophet Jeremiah, who said that this "place shall remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy."
Another story tells of how the ark was brought to Ethiopia and is now at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Aksum.
The ark is believed by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to have been brought to Aksum by Menelik, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of Israel, after Jerusalem was sacked in 586/587BC and Solomon’s temple destroyed.
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It is said to be guarded by a succession of monks who are forbidden until death to leave the church grounds.
Indiana Jones spent a whole movie looking for the Ark of the Covenant in the film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, which premiered in 1981.
The venerated vessel is said to have legendary powers of healing, deliverinng eternal youth and granting everlasting happiness.
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