Founded by Emperor Sarsa Dengel around the year 1580, it became Ethiopia's capital under Emperor Fasilidos almost a half century later. There was a superstition at the time that the capital's name should begin with a 'G'. Fasilidos built a castle—Gondar's first—in 1635, and the five emperors that followed him did the same. The town served as Ethiopia's capital until Tewodros II moved the Imperial capital to Magadala upon being crowned Emperor in 1855. Abdallahi ibn Muhammad sacked Gondar when he invaded Ethiopia in 1887. During the Second World War, Italian forces made their last stand in Gondar in November 1941, after Addis Ababa fell to British forces in May.
The modern city of Gondar is popular as a tourist attraction for its many picturesque ruins in the Royal Enclosure, from which the Emperors once reigned. Gondar is also a noted center of eclesiastic learning in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church