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Ethiopia: Debre Tsion church

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Debre Tsion church | Ethiopia | Africa

[Visited: November 2006]

When our driver drove our Landcruiser right through a football field, we knew it could not be far. Indeed, after a few more minutes he parked the car under a tree, and it did not take much time for the car to be stormed, as the local youth had been advised of our arrival by the cloud of dust thrown into the air behind our car. After crossing a creek, we ascended to the top of this flat-topped mountain with ease. Quickly, our following grew bigger, and when we reached the top of the hill, we had more than twenty youngsters following us. From here, we had great views over the landscape of Gheralta, the church-studded area of Tigrai.

Picture of Debre Tsion church (Ethiopia): Flat-topped hill in the Gheralta countryside with Debre Tsion on top

Fortunately, the priest had been with us almost from the beginning, as he had apparently also heard the rumour of faranji climbing to his church. It was only at the top of the mountain, when the keys came out, that the priest and his helpers started to make some trouble about the entrance fee. Even though there is a fixed price for entrance in the Gheralta churches, they still tried to get a huge tip on top of it before even considering to get the key out. After we had solved this annoying episode in the never ending faranji-money story, we could finally get in. It was worth the hassle.

Picture of Debre Tsion church (Ethiopia): Old Testament figures in a fresco on the wall of Debre Tsion church

The frescoes were beautiful, quite worn, but still very decorative. Furthermore, their soft reddish tone was very pleasant to the eye. We spent some time following the scenes on the walls of this large church. The church dates from the 13th century, was founded by Abuna Abraham. The large church is actually the second one he constructed on this spot; a much smaller and less impressive one can be seen elsewhere on top of the hill. A passage inside the rock leads to a prayer room with religious figures carved out in the wall, but no frescoes. When we finally descended, the crowd who had been faithfully waiting for us followed us again all the way back to the village below the mountain.

Picture of Debre Tsion church (Ethiopia): Ceiling of Debre Tsion church, in the Gheralta region of Tigrai
Picture of Debre Tsion church (Ethiopia): Priests in front of Debre Tsion church
Picture of Debre Tsion church (Ethiopia): Debre Tsion church seen from outside
Picture of Debre Tsion church (Ethiopia): Fresco inside Debre Tsion church
Picture of Debre Tsion church (Ethiopia): Saints depicted in frescoes inside Debre Tsion church
Picture of Debre Tsion church (Ethiopia): Ceiling of the prayer cell of Abuna Abraham in Debre Tsion church
Picture of Debre Tsion church (Ethiopia): First version of a rock-hewn church by Abuna Abraham, Debre Tsion church
Picture of Debre Tsion church (Ethiopia): Interior of Debre Tsion church: wall full of frescoes
Picture of Debre Tsion church (Ethiopia): Religious figure on the walls of Debre Tsion church

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