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Tigray Rock Hewn Churches

There are plenty of rock-hewn churches in Tigray, perhaps more than 120 many of them are found in Temben, Geraalta and Wukro.Almost all of them are semi-monolithic type of churches and mainly known by their multiple domes.Ever since the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church believes that the Ark of the Covenant has remained in Ethiopia. Now the Ark of the Covenant is kept in a small chapel in the courtyard of the Axum Zion church. This makes Aksum the holiest ground in Ethiopia.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 LalibelaThe main clusters Known as Gheralta, Tembien, Atsbi and TekaTesfia 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 TekaTesfia cluster is the site of Ethiopia’s first mosque. As in Lalibela, legend has it that the phenomenal architectural construction of the churchesWas 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.

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