Gondar was the first capital city of the Ethiopian empire, which began in 1632 with the reign of Fasilidas. In Gondar, there are a dozen castles built by various emperors over the course of 236 years. The city seems more European than African and also has Islamic influences. Beginning with Fasilidas, a succession of Ethiopian kings built the castles that still occupy the heart of modern day Gondar. Known collectively as the Royal Enclosure or "Fasil Ghebbi", the castles have survived several wars, including air raids during World War Two. There is also the church of Debre Berhan Selassie. It was built by King Iyasu in the late 17th century. Debre Birhan Selassie meaning Light of the Trinity. The church was miraculously spared in the Mahdist War of the 1880's when, according to legend, a swarm of bees held off the invading soldiers!