Last night part of 60 Minutes featured these churches. Several years ago I went with friends from Ethiopia to see them. We spent almost an entire day hiking through around and up and down all eleven of them. I decided to travel back a few years and relive my experiences there and share it here.
800 years ago these churches were carved from the top down out of solid stone. They dug a trench deep all around what is now each church and then worked from there. Everything is stone, including the interior columns and spaces.
There are areas around all the churches and drainage canals so they do not flood in the rainy season.
The inside of each church is decorated with carvings, frescoes, and wall hangings.
Because 800 years of wear and tear and especially rain was beginning to take its toll, they covered them several years ago. Now, according the the architect on 60 Minutes, they are experiencing the opposite problem. The stone is getting too dry and contracting. They are teaching local people how to preserve the stone so it will last hundreds more years.
Dino, my Ethiopia friend, and the guide, in white.
Why the ridiculous looking socks? Fleas are a problem. Many of the churches have old carpet on the floors, thousands of people still workshop in them regularly. We were told to spray our ankles, tuck our pants inside out socks, spray our socks. It worked.
And here is probably the most photographed of them from up above. Yes, you do get to climb all the way down there if you want to go inside. We did. The story goes that the king went to Jerusalem and wanted to create an Ethiopian Jerusalem. There is a river nearby which they call the River Jordan. As you tour, they explain every detail and how they match passages and stories from the Biblical Jerusalem. How did they build all of these out of solid stone? With the help of angels.