Debre Damo monastery

Debre Damo monastery is situated on an isolated mountain in northern part of Tigray. Some three hours drive from Axum with the recently restored road and an additional one hour hard ascending walk from the point where the road ends. (Depending on your fitness) lies, the spectacular monastery of Debre Damo, it is unique compared with most Ethiopian monasteries. Debre Damo was built in the 6th century AD with curved wood plates, painting ceilings and walls dedicated to the ledged of Saint Abune Areggawi, the history of Debre Damo is core on the Nine Saints who came to Ethiopia from Syria and other Europe empires in the 6th century during the reign of Kaleb and Gebremeskel to widen Christianity in the country particularly the northern part of Ethiopia. Among them Abune Areggawi came to this flat top mountain to establish and dwells on the mountain of Debre Damo

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Debre Damo is only accessible by climbing up a rope, which is made up of animal leather lowered from the cliffs, which visitors tie around their waist and are then pulled up by a monk at the top of the cliffs. It’s only permitted to men and male animals, women and even female animals are prohibited to enter. It’s magnificent in terms of its location and extensive collection of priceless manuscripts that have remained intact till present time. It has become a prominent monastic and spiritual educational center for Ethiopian Christianity for centuries, many books and manuscripts have been written and translated to Ge’ze on animal skins and distributed throughout the country.

The monastery

The monastery received its first archeological examination by E. Littman who led a German expedition to northern Ethiopia in the early 20th century. By the time David Buxton saw the ancient church in the mid-1940s, he found it "on the point of collapse” a few years later, the English architect D.H. Matthews assisted in the restoration of the building, which included the rebuilding of one of its wood and stone walls (a characteristic style of Aksumite architecture) Thomas Pakenham, who visited the church in 1955, records a tradition that Debre Damo had also once been a royal prison for heirs to the Emperor of Ethiopia, like the better known Wehni and Amba Geshen The exterior walls of the church were built of alternating courses of limestone blocks and wood, "fitted with the projecting stumps that Ethiopians call 'monkey heads.'" Once inside, Pakenham was in awe of what he saw:

The church of Debre Damo

When you gain the nave of the church, the full excitement of the architecture was apparent. The stones holding up the roof piers were actual Axumite relics incorporated in the Christian structure; while the doors and windows which held up the roof were all Axumite in style; their twisted frames were of exactly the same design as those on the obelisks I had seen at Axum. But the demands of the Christian church had produced entirely un-Axumite features. Below the nave roof a 'clerestory' of wooden windows let in a dim religious light from the outside world. And just visible above the ubiquitous draperies that shrouded the church in hieratic gloom, we could see a chancel arch leading to the sanctuary. It was exciting to see, here in this fortress above the wastes of Moslem Africa, features cast in the strong mould of the basilicas of early Christendom.