Gherealta Churches Tour
The Northern Tigray region contains a dizzying blend of wild land-escapes and remote rock hewn churches. The Gheralta Cluster with the most concentrated collection of churches in the most striking landscapes is the highlight.
Gheralta district is found 60kms north of Mekelle a semi dry plain with steep outcrops of cliffs and Table Mountains with very dramatic landscapes. But for most tourists to Ethiopia, the main reason to come to the Gheralta cluster is for its about 35 churches, the largest concentration of cliff churches of Ethiopia.
Gherealta often have the most colorful paintings and church treasures, while many are set in the most stunning scenic landscapes.
Abune Yemata (Guh)
Abune Yemata is one of the most majestic and awesome church in Gheralta mountains. About 30 minutes walk to the foot of the perpendicular rock mountains of Guh (name of the area). The interior of the church can be reached after climbing 5m tall vertical pillars which is approximately 250m to 300m high cliff. This rock is notable for its extensive and perfectly preserved wall and ceiling frescoes of Old and New Testament stories, thought to date from the 15th century but local priest believe from 6th century A.D . The annual festival is taken place on the 8th November.
Debre Mariam Korkor
It is one of the biggest and most complex rock-hewn churches of Tigray . About 1 and ½ hours walk and climb from the village of Megab and it brings you to the white washed faced of a built structure church facing to the West. The interior part of this church is decorated with magnificent paintings such as paintings depicting Archangel Ruphael which is reported by Gerster to be “similar to the painting in the cathedral church of Faras”. And another painting on the Western wall shows the Virgin Mery with a circle around her abdomen which according Ivy Pearce indicates the development of Christ in Utero and such a theme was commen one in 17th century Byzantine art.
Daniel Korkor a smaller rock church with only 2 rooms which its ceiling of the domed anteroom is decorated with primitive paintings is a minutes’ walk apart.
Abune Abreham (Debretsion)
It's located West of Wukro after 29km or 18 km Southeast of Hawzien. After 40 minutes gentle walk it can be reached on the top of the steep mountain. The church is entirely from a living hewn which is referred to as Abune Abreham, after the monk who founded it. The interior part of the church is decorated with fine paintings which are estimated to be from 15th century for the reasons of the simplicity of their lines and colors. But, according to some other writers and the church itself is thought to be from 4th century.Its annual festival is taken place on the 21st of Hidar (30th of November in most years) same time with Aksum St.Marry Annual festival.
This church is located 29km far from Wukro in the southern edge of the village of Digum. With no need to climb and walk the church can be reached on the side way of the main road. This church belongs to St. Trinity; is large, double-tomb chamber has three ‘shelves’. Its interior part is decorated with a beautiful carving designs and old paintings.
Abba Yohanni is a monastery which was named after the monk who founded it, situated in about 8km off the main road.This church is accessible only through a tunnel-like passage on its west side which is built in 1972/73. This church is classic in its decoration and supreme in its workmanship that one can see the beautiful interior of the church which is divided into four bays (which makes the church in exceptional feature) and three aisles by its arched columns and ceiling adorned by domes which themselves are decorated by finely carved crosses.The existence of this church to the outside world was first reported in 1928 (500 years after its construction) by the Italian traveler Dr. Enzo Parona. The annual festival takes place on the 5th of Hidar (14th of November in most years).
This church is found North West of Abbi-Addi. One can see the graveyard and hanging stone bells on the northern side of the churchyard. This Architecturally interesting church has three aisles and four bays and remarkable features such as it is well-carved has six massive, and finely hewn freestanding pillars and three cupolas. On the date of construction of the church, Even if there was a gap between the tradition and the scholars that the tradition has it as it is built during the reigns of Atse Dawit (1382-1411) and Atse Zera Yacob (1434-1468), finally they reached in a perfect agreement that it was from 15th century.
This church can be reached after 40 minutes gentle walk east of a small village called Adiha 15km southeast of the town of Workamba.It was built during the reign of Atse Zera Yacob in the 15th century. The exterior part of this church is easily imaginable that the carvers spent much time to beautify it and runs from the South end to the North end. In the interior part of the church one can see an unfinished dome-making and a pool of water which is always at the same level and its therapeutic effects are beyond belief, according to the priest of the church.