The only sizable town between Adigrat and Mekelle, with its relaxed if rather nondescript character and forms a convenient base from which to explore the under list as well as other a number of rock hewn churches. There are major rock hewn churches on the outskirt of the town, and the town is situated a mere 25km from the fine Teka Tesfai churches described below.

Wukro Cherkos church

An extraordinary church hewn from a living rock, sweeps into sight. The town lies at 47 km along the Mekelle – Adigrat road. The church is almost a monolith with the exception of its eastern side. In many aspects, the edifice shows a considerable resemblance to the Abraha Atsebaha and Mikael Imba churches all have a cruciform plan and share Aksumite architectural qualities. The roof of the church was repaired with concrete in 1958. In addition, one can see modified cement work around the entrances to the church. The main entrance leads to the anteroom, 3.7m wide and 1.8m deep. A finely carved pillar comes into view in the anteroom, which is beautified by 15th century murals, depicting angels and saints. The interior of the church is handsomely decorated with symmetrically patterned arches, columns and carvings. The ceiling is beautifully decorated although somewhat damaged and blackened by the fire of the 10th century Queen Judith. There are thirteen freestanding and huge square pillars with cubical capitals supporting the 6 meter tall ceiling. There are also exists a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. The existence of the church was first reported in England in 1868 by members of the Napier Expedition who visited it on their way to Maqdella. For many years, it was the only rock -hewn church known to the outside world. Despite the fact, that Portuguese Jesuit Father, Manual Barradas, had already given an “accurate” account of the distribution of the rock -hewn churches of Gheralta and Hawzien.

Abraha we Atsebaha

Abraha Atsebaha, another outstanding rock hewn church, the interior is painstakingly decorated. It has 13 huge cruciform pillars supporting the ceiling; the church is 16m wide and 13m deep. The ceiling is incised with patterns, of unusual care and precision. Mrs. Dale Otto, who was a member of Pearce’s pilgrimage to the rock hewn churches, rightly described it as a ”miraculously hewn” church. Abraha Atsbeha church is also decorated with splendid post 17th century murals and paintings depicting Biblical scenes and saints. It also has several valuable treasures; the most important being the prayer cross which, according to church officials, belonged to Frumentius the first Bishop of Ethiopia whose ecclesiastical name was Abba Salama (Father of peace). The church is dedicated to the famous twin Aksumite kings who introduced Christianity to Ethiopia in the 4th century. The bodies of Abraha and Atsbeha are believed to have been put to rest in the church. According to some archaeologists, the church is believed to have been built not earlier than the 10th century. Traditional thoughts, however, date it back to the 4th century. This great wonder is one of the highly revered churches of Ethiopia. Tens of thousands of pilgrims come from distant places every 14th of October by foot, horseback and car.

Other Rock Churches of Tigray

Gheralta Cluster

The Wukro Degum road leads west to Gheralta, its rock crowned peak, together with far reaching plains, enclosed by a chain of mountains, casts a panoramic view. George Gerster, the Swiss photographer, writes in his book, Churches in Rock,...

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Atsbi Wonberta Cluster

Atsbi Wonberta is located east of Wukro and bears the churches of Mikael Barka, Debreselam Mikael and Mikael Imba. These splendidly executed edifices are found perched on a mountain commanding a view of their surroundings. Mikael Barka Mikael...

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Tsaeda Imba [Teka Tesfai Cluster]

Along the Mekelle – Adigrat road, 25km after Wukro, an escarpment better known as Tsada Imba, meaning White Mountain, accompanies the road along the route to Sinkata. The rocky but scenic area is the home of one of the highly sacred places in...

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Monastery of Debre Damo

The monastery of Debre Damo is notable for its 6th century Axumite stone church, as well as for its impregnable cliff top position. This isolated relic lay on a 2800m high amba (flat topped hill) covering an area of 0.5m2 and sheer cliffs. The...

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Monastery of Gunda Gundo

Gunda Gundo is accessed from the town of Edagahamus, 100km after Mekelle. It has an area that lay between a sheer side cliff in the west and an escarpment that drops towards the Afar depression. From this settlement, a 24km rough road leads to...

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