Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion
One of the strongest traditions regarding the Ark of the Covenant is that it found its way to Ethiopia. There are several different explanations of how it got there, the most famous account concerning King Solomon. According to tradition, Solomon was the father of the Ethiopian royal dynasty, and the Ark was transferred to their possession for safety. This may have been done by Solomon himself, or occurred at a later date.
The belief that the Ark is in Ethiopia has been held there for centuries, possibly thousands of years. Over time it is claimed that it was moved from location to location, and that it is currently housed in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion. There it is kept hidden by an order of monks. Just like the ancient priesthood, in which only the high priest was permitted to see the Ark, only the chief monk may be allowed in its presence.
Ruins of Tanis
San El-Hagar, Egypt
One of the best known stories concerning the fate of the Ark, but also one of the least likely, is that told in the blockbuster film Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, the possibility that the fabled artifact wound up in Egypt is not entirely without merit. If the Ark was not hidden or moved by the Israelites, or taken or destroyed by the Babylonians, then Egypt would be the next logical possibility.
In the 10th century, a few years after Solomon’s death, a military expedition from Egypt sacked Jerusalem. While the city was not destroyed, a later Roman source indicates that the Temple treasures were taken away at this time. Presumably this would have included the Ark. What the Egyptians then did with it is anybody’s guess. But the city of Tanis, located in the land of Goshen where the Hebrew had been slaves, is as likely a place as any.
Lost Templar Horde
Another popular theory, especially for Templar enthusiasts, is that the Ark of the Covenant (among many other things) was discovered by Christian knights sometime during the Crusades in the 12th century. Although highly unlikely that the Ark was still hidden away after thousands of years, it is not impossible that the Templars or another order found it under the Temple Mount.
If it did wind up in the hands of the Templars, then it almost certainly made its way to France, along with great wealth of other treasure. The treasure of the Templars is one of the most famous lost treasures in history. Whether all or part of the treasure survived is of course unknown. The highly secretive Templars, at least those who survived the 14th century massacre, never gave up the location of the Ark if indeed they knew where it was.