Abba Yohanni

Church in Rock-hewn Churches of Tigray

Image by Ariadne Van Zandbergen Getty Images

Impressively located halfway up a 300m-high sheer cliff face, this church is reached by a 15-minute climb using steps, tunnels and little bridges. The crooked carving and large cracks make the three-aisled, four-bayed interior as fascinating as the facade and the bright afternoon light makes it easy to photograph. As a bonus, it’s an active monastery, so the key is never far away. On the downside, it means women are prohibited.

Architecturally it can’t compete with many others, but all things combined, it’s still worth a visit. It sits 13.5km from Abi Adi on the back of the mountain. The last 7.5km is on a 4WD-only road that gets very little traffic, except on market day.

If the church has captured your imagination, you’ll be pleased to know that another 42 churches founded by Yohannes are in the vicinity. The only problem is that not only are they all invisible, some are also guarded by a sword-wielding Yohannes…


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