Enda Mariam Wukro
This church lies 7km northwest of the town of Nebelet in central Tigrai, and northeast of the Gheralta Cluster of rock-hewn churches. The church is not fully separated from the rock face, and only the southern façade is visible from the exterior. The interior has richly decorated walls and ceilings. There are three doors, two of them leading into nave and the third leading to the priests’ chamber, called KineMahlet, measuring 9.2m deep, 4.4m wide and 5.2m high.
This chamber is highly decorated with stone bas-reliefs and relatively recent paintings. The western and southern parts of the ceiling have large, carved Greek crosses, and the northern and the central part of ceiling have geometrically perfect domes. The ceiling is supported on two free-standing pillars. The remarkable feature of the church is that the pillars are connected by double arches, and have no central pillars. A wooden door leads to the inner altar. The interior measures 10m x 9m x 9m.
Four free–standing pillars with pilaster capitals on top, plus another 10 wall-pillars support the ceiling. On the western side of the holy of holies, one can see a window–like opening in Aksumite style, very much reminiscent of the windows of the Lalibela churches. In fact, in many respects, the church is similar to those churches of Lalibala and Debre Damo as well. According to David Buxton, one of the noted authorities of the rock-hewn churches of Tigrai, Enda Mariam Wukro “shows clear kinship with the built church of Debre Damo”. He further states that the church has “some important” kinship with Lalibela churches – Mariam, Amanuel and Abba Libanos specifically. Another chapel, accessible by a wooden ladder, houses the tabot of St. George. Enda Mariam Wukro is a very complex and magnificent church. According to scholar Ruth Plant, it is “without doubt a great example of Tigre architecture”.
WERI’E GORGE AND TEMBIEN
Tembien lies to the far southeast of Aksum. The Aksum-Adwa-Tembien road leads you along spectacular scenery. From the peaks of the highlands of Adwa, the road drops to the Werie Gorge before it reaches its lowest point at the riverbed of the River Werie, a tributary of the great River Tekeze. Then the road twists up before it brings the visitor to a complete view of the terrific mountains of Tembien as well as the mountain ranges of Gheralta to the east.
Historically, Tembien is remembered as the birth place of Emperor Yohannes IV and Ras Alula Aba Nega, while other Tigraians know it for its delicious honey and the hyperactive-seeming “Awris” dancing, where both male and female jump up parallel to each other. Furthermore, the area is home to some of northern Ethiopia’s impressive rock churches and natural attractions. Work Amba, Abba Yohanni, GebrielWukien and Mariam Hibiito are just few examples which can be visited without much strenuous effort from the Adwa-Tembien road.
This is a natural attraction site found 45 km east of Adwa where one can see a lot of migratory bird species that comes from different areas, even from outside of the country, on the months of May and November. The area is rich in varieties of vegetation and large mammals. Furthermore the site has geological importance with lime stone scenery.
Abba Yohanni is a monastery about 8 km off the main road. Another local road goes to within a few meters of the foot of DebreAssa, the mountain on which the church is built. Because of its whitewashed façade, the church is visible from a distance. Incised from the sheer cliff, the church is accessible only through a tunnel-like passage on its west side.
The interior of the church is as spacious as it is beautiful. Divided into several bays and aisle by its arched columns, the church is 14 meters deep and 12 meters wide. Seven free-standing columns and many non-free-standing columns support the ceiling, which is as high as nine meters. The ceiling is adorned by domes which themselves are decorated by finely carved crosses. Classic in its decoration and supreme in its workmanship, Abba Yohanni is a wonderful gift of art contributed from the distant past to the present.
This church is found 16km North West of Abbi – Addi and some km across the field and further 10 minutes ascent of the mountain side.
Architecturally interesting, this church has three aisles and four bays. The remarkable features are well-carved, interesting details, six massive, finely hewn freestanding pillars and three cupolas. Because of its “remarkable detail” some compare it with Mariam Wukro and MedhaneAlemAdiKesho.
Built in the 15th century, Mariam Hibiito (The Hidden Mary) is really hidden in a foot hill and surrounded by old green trees. Unlike in many other rock-hewn churches of Tigrai, the carvers of this structure had much time to spend in beautifying its exterior. To say the least, they have cut out four free-standing columns reminiscent of those at MedhaneAlemAddiKesho.
Inside the church there are four free standing and six non-free-standing columns. An unfinished dome-making effort is also evident on the ceiling. The church itself is 13m deep and 9m wide. It can be reached after 34km from the town of Abbi-Addi. The church is also surrounded by mountains in attractive setting.