Wukro & Is Bearby Attraction
Wukro Cherkos is situated around 200m from Wukro and the most accessible church. This crooked cruciform sandstone church is a three-quarters monolith and boasts beautiful cruciform pillars (notice the swirling sandstone laminate), cubical capitals, an outstanding Axumite frieze and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. Travelers passing through to anywhere north of Mekelle are strongly recommended to go off for a look, even if they have no time to visit another church. Because the church is attached to a large town, is always open and travelers are welcome even during church services.
The church is regarded by locals to date from the 4th century A.D, but is thought by David Buxton to have been excavated at a later date than that of Adi Kesho Medhane Alem and a century before the church of Lalibela. In many aspects, the edifice shows a considerable resemblance with Abraha Atsebaha and Mikael Imba churches. The main entrance leads to room containing a beautifully decorated 15th century pillars with painting depicting angles and saints’ line drawings cover the ceiling. The 6m high barrel ceiling is still black from a fire said to have occurred in the 10th century when Queen Judith reigned over the country.
The only sizable town between Adigrat and Mekelle, with its relaxed if rather nondescript character and forms a convenient base from which to explore the under list as well as other a number of rock hewn churches. There are major rock hewn churches on the outskirt of the town, and the town is situated a mere 25km from the fine Teka Tesfai churches described below.
WUKRO CHERKOS CHURCH
An extraordinary church hewn from a living rock, sweeps into sight. The town lies at 47 km along the Mekelle – Adigrat road. The church is almost a monolith with the exception of its eastern side. In many aspects, the edifice shows a considerable resemblance to the Abraha Atsebaha and Mikael Imba churches all have a cruciform plan and share Aksumite architectural qualities.
The roof of the church was repaired with concrete in 1958. In addition, one can see modified cement work around the entrances to the church. The main entrance leads to the anteroom, 3.7m wide and 1.8m deep. A finely carved pillar comes into view in the anteroom, which is beautified by 15th century murals, depicting angels and saints.
The interior of the church is handsomely decorated with symmetrically patterned arches, columns and carvings. The ceiling is beautifully decorated although somewhat damaged and blackened by the fire of the 10th century Queen Judith. There are thirteen freestanding and huge square pillars with cubical capitals supporting the 6 meter tall ceiling. There are also exists a replica of the Ark of the Covenant.
The existence of the church was first reported in England in 1868 by members of the Napier Expedition who visited it on their way to Maqdella. For many years, it was the only rock -hewn church known to the outside world. Despite the fact, that Portuguese Jesuit Father, Manual Barradas, had already given an “accurate” account of the distribution of the rock -hewn churches of Gheralta and Hawzien.
ABRAHA WE ATSEBAHA
Abraha Atsebaha, another outstanding rock hewn church, the interior is painstakingly decorated. It has 13 huge cruciform pillars supporting the ceiling; the church is 16m wide and 13m deep. The ceiling is incised with patterns, of unusual care and precision. Mrs. Dale Otto, who was a member of Pearce’s pilgrimage to the rock hewn churches, rightly described it as a ”miraculously hewn” church.
Abraha Atsbeha church is also decorated with splendid post 17th century murals and paintings depicting Biblical scenes and saints. It also has several valuable treasures; the most important being the prayer cross which, according to church officials, belonged to Frumentius the first Bishop of Ethiopia whose ecclesiastical name was Abba Salama (Father of peace). The church is dedicated to the famous twin Aksumite kings who introduced Christianity to Ethiopia in the 4th century. The bodies of Abraha and Atsbeha are believed to have been put to rest in the church.
According to some archaeologists, the church is believed to have been built not earlier than the 10th century. Traditional thoughts, however, date it back to the 4th century. This great wonder is one of the highly revered churches of Ethiopia. Tens of thousands of pilgrims come from distant places every 14th of October by foot, horseback and car.