Abuna Yemata Guh is a church that has been described as the world’s most perilous church. It sits so high up perching 2,580 metres above a steep cliff in the Hawzen Woreda of the Tigray Region, Ethiopia. Its architecture, dome and wall paintings date back to the 5th Century.
Named after its founder and builder, father Yemata in the fifth century, it takes visitors 45 minutes to climb up the cliff face in order to access it. The trek up to the church is dangerous, but families still manage to attend Sunday services there.
The church is perched on the cliff-side and to reach it, you must scale a sheer wall of rock and inch along a swift ledge bare footed since it is considered a holy ground. It has 20 clergymen and is managed by Gebre Rufael Asresseha, a priest, who has lived there for over 47 years and makes the trek daily.
“When they see it from afar, They get scared thinking they would fall, but then we encourage them. We tell them ‘grab here, step on there’, and they feel encouraged; and they will climb it, and they won’t turn back,” Asresseha explained.
It is situated at a height of 2,580 metres and according to lonely planet, the first 45 minutes of the climb is mildly challenging, with a couple of tricky sheer sections requiring toehold action; guides carry ropes (Birr150) for the final push. The last two minutes require nerves of steel to make the final scramble and precarious ledge walk over a 200m drop.
The views from the baptism chamber are reportedly astounding with carefully preserved wall-paintings on the domes and walls. “Inside is beautiful and well-preserved frescoes that adorn two cupolas, while the bones of monks from the open-air tombs lie around”.https://www.youtube.com/embed/IJCy64adY3Y?autoplay=1&controls=1
The Abuna Yemata Guh church has a local guide and vanguards at every step of the climb, making sure you know which foothold to take and rock to climb and helping out with the ropes. Visitors are advised to start on the trek early in the morning.
According to a report, most of the climb is simple, except for the last 7-metre stretch that navigates a sheer cliff face. “The first part of the climb is a half-hour trek up a steep incline, but doable. This is followed by the tough part, inching up the sheer cliff”.
The church is active with churchgoers climbing up the cliffs several times a week including mothers with their children on their back, pregnant women, babies and old people to attend services and reportedly, no one has ever fallen. Some people call it “The climb of faith.”