Abuna Yemata Guh: The World’s Most Inaccessible Place of Worship

A monolithic church located in Woreda Hawzen, in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, is 2,580 meters high, and the only way to access it is on foot. This is Abuna Yemata Guh, the most inaccessible place of worship in the world.

This magnificent place stands out for its extraordinary dome and the beautiful paintings and murals from the 5th century, in addition to its excellent architecture.

The Magnificent Abuna Yemata Guh

Abuna Yemata Guh: The World's Most Inaccessible Place of Worship
Distant view of the place where the church is located.

The church is carved into the side of a cliff, and in order to reach it, visitors and faithful must cross a natural stone bridge, with a steep descent of 250 meters on each side. Then, they must walk along a final narrow wooden walkway, followed by an ascent up a vertical wall of rock, completely dependent on hand and foot grips. This part of the climb must be done barefoot, as it is considered sacred ground. Finally, the journey is crowned by a walk on a 50-centimeter-wide cornice in front of a 92-meter cliff.

Father Assefa, a devotee of Abuna Yemata Guh, says the routes are blessed:

«No one has ever died. Our patron saint saves those who fall with his wind. They return to the cornice from the middle of the height».

Father Assefa’s grandfather was also a priest of Abuna Yemata Guh, and generations of priests have been buried among the rocks. The church was built by San Abuna Yemata, one of the 9 saints who left Syria, Constantinople, or Rome to bring Christianity to Ethiopia at the end of the 5th century.

A Terrifying Route

Abuna Yemata Guh: The World's Most Inaccessible Place of Worship
Part of the paintings that are in perfect condition inside the church.

According to Lonely Planet, the first 45 minutes of the climb are somewhat challenging, with a couple of complicated sections requiring support. The guides carry ropes for the final push. The last two minutes do require nerves of steel and perfect attention to walk the precarious ledge without suffering a brutal fall.

For the believers of Abuna Yemata Guh, the journey is totally worth it, as it houses some of the oldest Christian artworks on the planet.

The sandstone walls are adorned with portraits of the protagonists of the Bible, as well as representations of their parables. Other paintings depict figures from the Old Testament. The dry air and lack of humidity have perfectly preserved these works over time.

The paintings date back to the early traces of Christianity in Ethiopia and have as their theme the nine saints and the twelve apostles. The oldest icons are in the form of diptychs and triptychs dating from the 15th century.

The church of Abuna Yemata Guh has local guides at every step of the ascent, making sure that visitors know which foothold to take and which rock to climb, while using the ropes. Despite the terrifying climb, the church is still active, with parishioners climbing the cliffs several times a week, including mothers with children on their backs, pregnant women, and elderly individuals. It shows that faith is very important for these people.


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Acerca de Erick Sumoza

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