Rock hewn Churches of Tigray
The Tigray region is the major playground of rock hewn churches in Ethiopia. The churches are older than the rock hewn churches of Lalibela. Most churches are carved out of the rocky walls of pre-existing caves and often only accessible after a long and steep climb up the rocks. Local tradition attributes most of the churches excavated by the famous Axumite kings of Abreha and Atsbeha around the fourth century.
A cluster of churches can be found near Hawzien on the impressive Gheralta rock formation, it seems to be a kind of Ethiopian Arizona. Here also a quite comfortable accommodation can be found: the Gheralta Lodge. One of the most famous of the churches, Abuna Yemata Guh, may be reached only after a climb of about an hour. The willingness to undertake this is said to be a “proof that you truly believe in God”. The church is famous for its extraordinary view and for the splendid frescoes it contains dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, which are well preserved.
Abreha Atsbeha and Wukero Cherkos are two of the best accessible churches near the main road. The former is dedicated to the twin brothers Abreha and Atsbeha, the mythical kings of the Axumite kingdom. The church is noteworthy for its structure and the fine frescoes it contains.