abuna_yema

Church in the sky: Abuna Yemata Guh Church

It would certainly be a test of even the most faithful’s devotion.

At 2,500 feet, Ethiopa’s ‘church in the sky’ is arguably the most inaccessible place of worship on earth, perched on top of a vertical spire of rock, with sheer, 650 feet drops on all sides.


To reach the extraordinary church on a clifftop in Tigray, one must scale a sheer 19 feet-high wall of rock without any climbing ropes or harnesses, inching along narrow ledges and crossing a rickety makeshift bridge.

And people are willing to risk the ascent: Families have brought their newborn babies up here to be baptised, and corpses have been carried up to be buried on the mountain.

It is said that in 5th century AD Egyptian priest Father Yemata walked to Ethiopia, climbed the mountains and quarried the church out of the rock.

‘Father Yemata, it seems, liked a dose of extreme sports with his divinity,’ writes Lonely Planet Traveller. The magazine features the church, Abuna Yemata Guh, in its new bookazine collating the best and most inspiring destinations visited by the publication.

Abuna Yemata Guh has survived for 15 centuries, and in that time ‘nobody has fallen’ on the way up, according to the current priest Kes Haile Silassie.

It is not known what motivated Father Yemata to establish his church here. Theories suggest that he simply wished to pray alone in the clouds, while some say he needed to escape raiders.

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