Rock churches of Tigray
There are more than 125 rock-hewn churches are recorded in Tigray only. These churches date from the 4th-15th century. The stupendous rock hewn churches of Tigrai, most of them curved into relatively remote cliff faces, obscure as the churches carved into the sandstone cliffs of Tigrai. Most of these architectural ornaments remain in active use today, several house paintings and other consecrated medieval artifacts, and even one of them is imbued with an aura of mysticism that seeps from the very rock in to which they are warped.
The rock hewn churches of Tigrai were generally excavated using a very different method to that fortunate at Lalibela.
The rock churches of Tigrai are dated back to the rule of Abreha and Atsebeha (Ezana and Saizana), the twin emperors of Axum, who introduced Christianity to Ethiopia in the 4th century AD up to the 15th century. Many of the rock hewn churches of Tigrai is lie along the main road between Mekelle and Adigrat the junction town to Adwa and Axum, and they are grouped under four major huddle, and some are accessible can be reached easily from the main asphalt road and the others situated off road from the main road and needs hours driving and mountain climbing over rough roads.
Wukro Degum road leads west to Gheralta, its rock crowned peak, together with far execution plains, with this by a progression of mountains, casts a panoramic view.
It is the home of a quarter of the rock churches, some famous for their stone workmanship, antique paintings and manuscripts, and others recognized for their magnificent view and thorny ascent. Such great churches as Abune Yemata Guh, Mariam Korker, Debretsion, Yohannes Maequddi, Abune Gebre Mikael, Debrema’ar and Degum Selassie are in the very heart of this cliff.
A newly built gravel road leads to the church of Abreha We Atsebha, which is situated 15 km west of Wukro.The church is slash into the red rock overlooking the valley and stands out with its white painted front elevation and tall blue doors. Its interior is ornamented with marvelous post-17th century wall painting depicting biblical scenes. The most valuable treasure is a prayer cross which belonged to Frumenty’s, Ethiopia’s first bishop.
The church is the largest and the most extraordinary of Tigray’s rock churches and is enthusiastic to the brothers Abreha and Atsebha, previous kings of Axum, who are said to have adopted Christianity in the 4th century.
It is about 47 km from Mekele on the edge of the small town Wukro lays the rock-hewn church of Wukro Cherckos on a hill of red rock. The church is hypothetical to have been constructed by the two kings Abreha and Asbeha in the 4th century. The upper part of the wool and the ceilings were painted, but now much is destroyed. Nevertheless, a good impression of the decoration can be gained. According to the priests the church was burned down by the Judaic Queen Gudit in the 10th century, who destroyed many Christian monuments and also toppled the Axum stele as the Axumite kingdom came to an end.
ABUNE YEMATA GUH
Abune Yemata is one of Gheralta’s rock hewn churches, it can be reached from the historic town of Hawzien, spinning off at the village of Megab and keeping left on the escarpment. 4km drive from Megab and a further 30 minutes’ walk will bring you to the foot of the at right angles rock mountains of Guh. The scenery is magnificent and the mountains bear a resemblance to pillars reaching to the sky. Megab is only 10 km from Degum or 8 km south of Hawzien. This church is impressed on the cliff face of the Guh Mountains; unfortunately, there are no supports, like at Debre Damo use to slope. You can find only footholds and handgrips in the rock face. Just before the entrance to the church there is a narrow ledge carved in the cliff from which one
Along the Mekelle – Adigrat road, 25km after Wukro, an escarpment better known as Tsada Imba, denotation White Mountain, accompanies the road along the route to Sinkata. The rocky but scenic area is the home of one of the highly consecrated places in the region.
The monastery Debre Damo is extraordinary for its 6th century Axumite stone church, as well as for its indestructible rock face top location. This remote remnant lay on a 2800m high flat topped hill covering an area of 0.5m2.
This area of stability measures about 1000 meters from northeast to southwest and 500 meters from northwest to southeast. It is together with this by complete cliffs. To Climb to the mountaintop is made potential via a 15 meter plaited skin rope that hangs from the apex. The church is passionate to its discoverer, Abune Aregawi, one of the ‘nine saints’ who taught gospel in the 6th century. Debre Damo is second to none in terms of monastic life in Ethiopia. On the top of the Imba, there are hundreds of resident monks. These monks have greatcontributed toward the development of church education and literature in Ethiopia. With this regard, Debre Damo has won unequaled fame and reputation. This monastery has also served as a safe haven for Ethiopian kings that were pursued by enemies.