The heart hums what the mouth can’t tell. Trying to come up with words to let others see what you have seen, to get them see through your end of the telescope is sometimes easy (smiley face emoji), sometimes hard (grumpy) but in this case it’s just simply implausible (emoji unavailable). This churches are more than one thousand years old, carved into the soul of Gheralta Mountains. It’s said that when lovers arrive at this churches their souls would speak to one another in a language that no one knows but feels, a language called love. Aside from the “lovers” thing, a dying soul would revive with a single gasp of the wind. Anyone who is fond of climbing steep long rock walls and skirting cliff would kill to be there!
Legend has it that when Constantinople started persecuting the Christians in ancient Israel, the nine saints came to Ethiopia and settled in Tigray, built the churches carving through the mountains. It is believed that the churches were built for mainly two or three reasons: to bring believers closer to the spiritual realm and to be out of the prospect of the marauding armies passing through the valleys beneath. Climbing through canyons high and hidden, the Gheralta church sites are of true vision.
MARYAM KORKOR CHURCH
One of the churches located at about a km southeast of a village named Megab, up through a niche canyon and a 6m free climb up a sandstone wall, out of vision from the valley under, is Maryam Korkor church. In the church you see this elegant paintings, cruciform pillars, high arches covered with religious frescoes made from natural dyes.
This church was built and adorned in a way that it could speak for itself—the paintings on the walls recite the stories of unmatched artistic beauty: vivifying the heart and brain of the beholder, luring them to dive into the past. A portico protecting an almost excessively vast-looking interior very deep and wide, all carved out of the mountain rock.
As I was scribbling, I couldn’t help but think, how enduring and gifted were the saints to build such beauty?
Before reaching the Maryam Korkor church, there is this view of which words simply wouldn’t be enough to depict what one sees, right from the top of the mountain one would for once get a glimpse of what heaven would look like.
On the way to the church, you would face a super vertical incline narrow passageway. Looking at the sky, the sun rays tearing through the clouds illuminating the beauty even more
DANIEL KORKOR CHURCH
Two-room church whose ceilings and upper walls are painted with natural berry and flower pigments. The painting style here is more simplistic than in other Gheralta churches;
out of view from the valley below, the Ethiopian Orthodox structure – which is partly attached to the cliff’s face – featuring a simple frontage that protects an almost disproportionately vast-looking interior 17m deep and more than 9m wide, all carved out of the mountain rock.
You see this inexpressible scenery upon the plains departing Daniel Korkor, on the cliff’s edge to take in this panoramic view of the Gheralta Mountains, with the Hawzien Plain below. What amazes me is that the local mothers often make the same journey, tying their infants to their backs, within 40 to 80 days of giving birth in order to baptize their babies at the church, this they have been doing for more than a thousand years.
ABUNE YEMATA GUH
Climbing to the church of Abuna Yemata Guh along a route there is this small, modern Ethiopian Orthodox church, which marks the trailhead on the valley floor. Local Christians, preferring to worship at a spot nearer to heaven, make the climb to the ancient cave church each Sunday and on holidays. Out of sight within the rocks.
To reach to Abuna Yemata Guh, steering a natural stone bridge with a sheer drop of approximately 250m on either side is a must. After you have passed that then crossing a final narrow wooden footbridge will lead you to the entrance. On the ceiling, a painting portraying nine of the twelve apostles; but nine of them on the ceiling and three on the side, why separate them? Well that my friends is something you should come and see. Worth a Jew’s eye.