Tigray churches

Mekele: Is Tigray’s largest town and capital owes its importance to emperor Yohannes IV who made is his capital in the late 19th C. Mekele is of little historical significance by comparison with many smaller Tigraian Towns. Some points of interest for tourists include the former palace emperor Yohannes and now museum, the Saturday little market offers opportunity of looking salt bars brought in by camels from Danakil region. Mekele also serves as a base to explore the Danakil region (Dalol Depression, Asale Salt lakes, Ertale volcano, Afdera and Semera

  • Because of their remoteness, the exhilarating climb to reach some of them, and the fact that many of them predate the Lalibela churches by several Centuries are spectacular. There are over 120 ancient rock churches scattered Throughout northern Ethiopia`s dry and rocky Tigray region, which are divided into four main Clusters.
  • In the 9th century, the Jewish queen Yodit tried to eradicate Christianity by burning churches and valuable Christian works. And in the 16th century, the churches came under attack from Moslem invaders led by Ahmed gragn (the’ left-handed’’), signs of the destruction are still apparent in many of the Churches.

Tigray churches

Tigray’s rock churches date from between the 6th and 14th centuries (some possibly date back to the 4th century when Christianity arrived in Ethiopia),and have been carved in all manner of ways, some are very elaborate, cathedral-like, separated from the rock on three sides or actual four-sided monoliths, while others are more like caves with great stone pillars descending within, Unlike Lalibela, where the churches have been excavated down through the rock, the Tigray churches are mostly carved into cliff faces or from rocky outcrops.

  • These churches primarily don’t function as tourist attractions. Almost half of these churches have gone unseen by foreigners because the Tigraian churches are more scattered and less accessible than their counterparts at Lalibela

The main clusters Known as Gheralta, Tembien, Atsbi and Teka Tesfia are spread over a wide area of eastern Tigray, perched on mountain tops, hanging hillsides, or simply standing on an incline near the roadside.. But Tigray a has a sizeable Moslem population, and the small town of Negash not far from the Teka Tesfia cluster is the site of Ethiopia’s first mosque. As in Lalibela, legend has it that the phenomenal architectural construction of the churches

Was beyond the power of man, and that angels sent by God assisted in bringing about these stone wonders, many of the churches are painted with elaborate religious murals using colours derived from nature. But some have remained undecorated.

What to see

Debre Damo Monastery Teka Tesfai cluster Adi Kesho Medahane Alem

Negash Mosque Churches around Atsbi Michael Barka Michael Imba

Debre Selam Hawzien & Gheralta Abuna Yemata Guh Maryam Korkor

Dugum Silassie Tembien Adigrat