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Tigray rock churches and surroundings
Abrha we Asbha
The external simplicity of the rock-hewn church of Abrha we Asbha is misleading. Of rock-churches in Tigray, Abrha we Asbha is regarded the best for its interior architectural details and decorations. It also has very elaborate works of art.
The church of Abune Yimata in Tigray is distinct for its location in a high standing sandstone column. To access it one has to climb up on the face of rock with sheer drops. Its interior is decorated with frescos.
Emperor Yohannes IV’s Palace
Emperor Yohannes IV who ruled Ethiopia from 1872-1889, built a magnificent palace at his capital city at Mekele. The palace, which is now a museum, houses Yohannes’ elaborate throne and other collections which give insight to his period.
Located on top of a sandstone formation, the rock-hewn church of Maryam Korkor in Tigray is known for rare age-old frescos depicting Old and New Testament Scenes.
To escape persecution in Arabia in the early days of Islam, in 615 Prophet Mohammed dispatched some 100 early Muslims to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian King Asihima gave them protection. Later while many of them returned to Arabia, some died and buried at Negashi (50 kilometers north of Mekele) along the Ethiopian king who gave them protection and embraced Islam as to Islamic tradition.
Tigray Rock Churches
Of over hundred rock churches in Ethiopia, most of them are located in Tigray Region in northern Ethiopia. Besides to their being carved from a single rock, their location is fascinating. Some of them such as Abrha we Asbha are easy to access, while churches like Abune Yimata require climbing on rock face with sheer drop.
Wukro Kirkos is the most accessible of the Tigryan rock churches. Though it is not as elaborate as Abrha we Asbha, it is assumed to be an imitation of the latter.
The archeological Museum at Wukro (north of Mekele) houses findings from pre-Christian sites in the region. The most important collection of the Museum is the libation altar discovered at the pre-Christian Temple at Meqaber Ga’ewa near Wukro.