The white sandstone escarpment that runs south – north between Frewoyni and Wukro and parallel to the road is, called the Tsaeda Imba meaning “white mountain”. The rocky scenic area is the home of one of the highly sacred places in the region.
If you are staying in Mekelle, the distance involved in arriving to the start of your walk are as follows: from Mekelle to Wukro is 47 km, and from Wukro to your start – point is 25 km, 72 km asphalt road all in all. The site consists of three old churches and a new one, each very different and all within 2km of each other.
Medhane Alem at Adi Kesho
Medhane Alem Adi Kesho is one of Tigrai’s oldest and finest rock-hewn churches estimated to date from the 10th or early 11th century. An unusual feature is the beautifully decorated narthex connecting the northern and southern ends of the church. Two doors lead to the interior of the church where the ceiling is supported by six huge square pillars. The ceiling is decorated with reliefs and geometrical patterns. Because of its immense height and massive pillars, this church resembles a cathedral. There are engravings on the walls and a croix patêe on the right side of the back wall.
The most striking feature of this church is to be found in the recessed ceiling just after entering the left hand door way. Aksumite friezes approximately half a meter in height, decorate three sides of the recess.
Forming the dome of the recess is a beautiful, circular, shallow relief carved from the sandstone rock. Many bands of intricate circular patterns radiate out from an enclosed Greek cross at the center of the relief, the whole design resembling the decorated Tigrian circular bread loaf, the Himbasha. You can reach there after 15 minute drive from Medhani Adi Kesho and 5 minute drive from Petros Wepaulos
Petros Wepaulos (Petros Teftsame Semaet)
In the same area is another church, Petros Tefetsme Semaet, which lies on the cliff side of the escarpment, 2740 above sea level. It is visible from the main road because of the White-washed façade. It is on the top of a bluff, reached by carefully climbing a rickety ladder and platforms placed against the cliff side.
Partially built of wood, stone and mortar, and partly a cave it boasts some fascinatingly primitive paintings. To some historians, these paintings have originality and liveliness often missing in other early period paintings of Ethiopia. Paul Henz, in his book Ethiopian Journeys, describe them, “… among the most interesting early paintings I saw anywhere in Ethiopia.”
The church has not been used for several years because it is difficult to reach. However, it will always be remembered for its difficulty ascent, ancient paintings and, of course, for the courage of ‘Haleka Halefom Retta, Tigrai’s last rock hewer! He takes pride in his being able to provide the local faithful with very easily accessible replacement church.