My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Yemrehane Christos monastery Ethiopia

the church
This is the continuing story of our pilgrimage to Ethiopia in search of the Ark of the Covenant
It has been organised by McCabe Pilgrimages who do this kind of thing rather well.

Today we have driven out from Lalibela to take time out from visiting the incredible rock hewn churches there, to visit instead the free standing church of the monastery of Yemrehane Christos.

shopping for Lalibela crosses
There are 195 steps up to the Yemrehane Christos monastery - set high up in the most incredible isolation. Some of the steps are very steep - many are shallow - and the walk up is really not too bad if you are reasonably fit and take it steadily. And it takes us through very beautiful Juniper forest - alive with a great variety of birds. 

It was a little too hot for some (take plenty of water) and at this high altitude - 2700 metres - some with breathing problems could not make it and have to take time out under the shade of a large tree near the bottom of the trek.

always beautiful scenery
But the charming little village settlement just below is a friendly place to linger, with plenty of shopping opportunities for souvenirs and places where the traditional coffee ceremony can be enjoyed. And the scenery as ever is stunning.

cheerful shop keeper - beautiful woven scarves
Once we are inside the rather ugly modern outer wall at the cave entrance, we are astonished by the Axumite style church building, of alternate layers of wood and granite, with white gypsum, giving the appearance as described by Bradt of "a gigantic layered chocolate cream cake." This is more than a century older than the Lalibela rock hewn churches

It has some fine architectural features and was an important place for pilgrimage in medieval times - they came from as far afield as Syria, Egypt and Jerusalem for the curative water and to die here and there is an enormous pile of bones at the back of the cave - said to represent more than 10,000 of these Christian pilgrims.
I receive a blessing from the priest in the church - a rather special experience...

See also the World Monuments Fund write up for this site. 

note cave setting of monastery buildings

priest at Yemrehane

There are so many medieval monasteries and churches that can be visited around this area East of Lalibela including a trio of rock hewn churches around Bilbilla, well worth a visit and at least for the time being, said to be much quieter than the much better known Lalibela churches. The road improvement schemes we saw all around us on our travels are likely to change all this I guess.

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