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This church looks like it could fall off a cliff: Abuna Yemata Guh (Images)

Abuna Yemata Guh

Biruk Ethiopia Tour | Facebook


Daniel Esparza - published on 01/20/24

One of the most remote and inaccessible places of worship in the world, it requires a strenuous climb of approximately 800 steps to reach its entrance.
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Abuna Yemata Guh is a monolithic church perched 2,580 meters (8,460 ft) above sea level in the rugged terrain of the Gheralta Mountains in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The church is one of the most remote and inaccessible places of worship in the world, requiring a strenuous climb of approximately 800 steps to reach its entrance.

The exact origins of Abuna Yemata Guh are unknown, but it is believed to have been built in the 5th century by a hermit monk named Abuna (Abba) Yemata.

Some others claim the church was hewn in the 6th century and then dedicated to Abuna Yemata, one of the famed Nine Saints – traditionally believed to have arrived in Ethiopia from Rome, Constantinople, and Syria between the end of the 5th and beginning of the 6th century.

Carved directly into the sandstone cliffs, the church consists of a series of interconnected chambers arranged around a central courtyard. The walls and ceilings are decorated with murals depicting biblical scenes and classic Christian iconography.

Access to Abuna Yemata Guh is not easy. The path to the church is steep and winding, with numerous ladders and rope bridges to negotiate. The final ascent to the entrance requires a narrow cliff ledge with sheer drops on either side. This challenging route has traditionally been deemed a test of faith for pilgrims seeking spiritual guidance.

Needless to say, Abuna Yemata Guh is considered one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Ethiopia. The church is a testament to the ingenuity and devotion of its builders, and its remote location adds to its already obvious spiritual significance. The church’s frescoes provide valuable insights into the art and iconography of early Christianity in Ethiopia.

Abuna Yemata Guh is one of the best-preserved rock-hewn churches in the country. Its unique architecture, invaluable murals and remote location have made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The church is a treasured cultural and spiritual landmark, and its preservation is essential to understanding Ethiopia’s rich religious and artistic heritage.

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