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.
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.
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.
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