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Ethiopia: Abreha wa Atsbeha church

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Abreha wa Atsbeha church | Ethiopia | Africa

[Visited: November 2006]

After having seen several of the famous churches in the Lalibela region and Lake Tana, visiting even more churches during our visit to the Tigray region could seem a little too much. But our curiosity won, and left Mekele in some nice company early in the morning. After a hearty breakfast at Wukro, it was not far to Abreha and Atsbeha church, founded by the two kings Abreha and Atsbeha. Shortly before, the road had led us into the Gheralta region, and before our eyes, a peculiar landscape, a plain lying between capricious rocks, unfolded. It looked like a worn-out canyon where the walls had disappeared at several places.

Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Abreha and Atsbeha church: murals depicting a history of the Ethiopian church

Mass had just finished, and men wrapped in white cloth were sitting on the stairs hewn out in rock in the early morning sun. Their contours were defined by a fine line of sun around their robes, their soft chatter seemed entirely natural to the background of the fantastic views and the feel of holiness of the place. After soaking in the atmosphere for a while, we went up the stairs to the semi-monolithic church. Abreha wa Atsbeha juts out of a face of rock, and unlike the Lalibela churches, can be seen completely free of scaffolding. While the outside is interesting enough, it is most famous for its murals.

Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Adam and Eve on a mural in Abreha and Atsbeha church

As soon as we entered, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the paintings on the walls and the ceiling of this church. The church itself is quite big, which adds to the appreciation of its beauty: there is enough light to enjoy the elaborate paintings. These are of relatively recent origin, and depict the entire history of the Ethiopian church. Apart from these paintings, with so many details and so well done that it can keep you busy for quite some time, the church also houses a wooden box in which are apparently the mummified bodies of Abreha and Atsbeha, whose mother was from this very region.

Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Mural inside Abreha and Atsbeha church
Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Holy horseman depicted on a mural in Abreha and Atsbeha church
Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): History of the Ethiopian church depicted on mural in Abreha and Atsbeha church
Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Emperor Yohannes and others depicted on mural in Abreha and Atsbeha church
Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Finely painted mural in Abreha and Atsbeha church
Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Virgin Mary and angels painted on wall in Abreha and Atsbeha church
Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Religious scene on mural in Abreha and Atsbeha church
Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Colourful decoration of corner of doorframe in Abreha and Atsbeha church
Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Stick of a priest lying on the floor of Abreha and Atsbeha church
Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): St George killling the dragon depicted on mural in Abreha and Atsbeha church
Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Vault decorated with double crosses inside Abreha and Atsbeha church
Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Winged, cherubic faces on doorframe in Abreha and Atsbeha church
Picture of Abreha wa Atsbeha church (Ethiopia): Old woman leaving Abreha and Atsbeha church

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