ROCK HEWN CHURCHES OF TIGRAY
Over 125 rock hewn churches are recorded with Tigray-alone. These churches date from 4th-15th century. Most of them are visited around the Gera-Alta chained mountains. Others are found in eastern and southern Tigray. Abreha-We-Atsbeha, Wukro Chercko churches are hewn in the 4th century. There are some pre Christian period hewn templates too. Special programs can be arranged to visit the Tigray Rock Churches either on surface or camping even up to 2-3 weeks. Otherwise a two or three days addition to the classical route itineraries can be nice to pay a visit of these churches.
Abraha wa Atsbeha
The wonderful church of Abreha wa Atsebha is situated 15 kms.west of Wuqro. A newly built gravel road leads to within a few meters of the church and beyond to Hawzien via Degum.
The church is one of the best and largest of the rock churches of Tigray, dedicated to the famous kings of Axum, the brothers Abreha and Atsebha. They are known by that name to history, but they are said in Ethiopian legends to be kings who adopted Christianity in the 4th century. The historical king of Axum who did adopt Christianity around that time was king Ezana . His name is equally unknown in Ethiopian legendary accounts.
The church is cut into the red rock overlooking a valley, and stands out with its white painted façade sheltering two tall blue doors under arches. The church is decorated with splendid post-17th century mural paintings depicting Biblical scenes and saints. It also has several valuable treasures, the most important being the prayer cross which according to churchy officials, belonged to Frumentius- the first Bishop of Ethiopia whose ecclesiastical name was Abba Salama (Father of peace).
Directly a the edge of the small town of Wuqro (47 Kms from Mekele), on a knoll of red rock, is the rock- cut church of Wuqro Cherqos.The church is supposed to have been constructed by the 4 C by the two kings Abreha and Asbeha. It is one of the first of the rock churches of Tigray. The upper part of the wool and the ceilings were painted, but now much destroyed. Nevertheless, a good impression of the decoration can be gained. A number of scenes can be distinguished: cherubim and angles, the Abune Samuel, the Nine Saints, St. Qirqos. The priests tell the story that the church was burnet by Gudit, the distinctive queen who is supposed also to have toppled the Axum stelae.