Town in Ethiopia about 2,300 m/7,500 ft above sea level and 40 km/25 mi north of Lake Tana; population (2006 est) 194,800. It is the capital of a region of the same name. Cattle, grain, and seed are traded. It was the capital of Ethiopia 1632–1855.
Features The town contains numerous palaces built by Emperor Fasilides, who also built the church of Debre Birhan Selassie (‘Abbey of the Light of Trinity’) which contains murals. The architecture of Gonder's churches and mosques occasionally reveals European medieval influences. Near Gonder are the ruins of the fort of Gimp built by the Portuguese as a royal residence but burned by King Theodore.
History In the 16th century Father Paez, a Portuguese missionary, worked for 20 years designing and building churches, palaces, and bridges, some of which still stand near Gonder. Fasilides (reigned 1632–35), after reasserting the royal power, built a new capital at Gonder (succeeding Āksum) which remained the royal residence until the middle of the 19th century. In 1714, following a revolt of the army, David, son of Jesus, a king of the old Ethiopian house of Solomon, was restored to the throne and entered Gonder. In 1855 the capital was transferred to Magdala.
Gonder was held in 1941 by the Italian general Nasi with about 40,000 troops, the last large body of Italian troops in the country. Access to the town was by two passes, both held by Italian garrisons which were starved into surrender in June and September respectively. Two brigades of the 12th African Division then converged on Gonder which held out until African troops gained the heights which commanded the Italian positions and the Kenya Armoured Car Regiment actually penetrated the outskirts of the town. Gen Nasi requested terms on 28 November 1941 and the garrison surrendered. With the capture of Gonder by Allied and Ethiopian forces the last Italian stronghold in East Africa had fallen.