Carved out of sandstone and reached by rope ladders, fresco-covered rock refuges are 1,600 years old
- Network of Christian places of worship was carved into the rock in Tigray between 5th and 15th centuries
- Abune Yemata Guh church sits 2,500ft above ground and is said to have been carved out by Egyptian priest
- Congregation can now only reach place of worship by scaling 19ft-high rock wall without ropes or harnesses
By MARK DUELL FOR MAILONLINE
Carved into the sandstone Gheralta mountains up to 1,600 years ago, this is an extraordinary network of Ethiopian cave churches.
The network of Christian places of worship was carved into the rock in Tigray between the 5th and 15th centuries and painted with frescoes.
The Abune Yemata Guh church, which sits 2,500ft above ground, is said to have been carved out by an Egyptian priest who walked all the way there.
Mariam Korkor church: This is one of the extraordinary Christian places of worship carved into the sandstone Gheralta mountains in Ethiopia
Journey: Anyone visiting the Abune Yemata Guh church must make their way along narrow ledges and cross a rickety makeshift bridge
Historic: The mountains where the Abune Yemata Guh church is located, 2,500ft above ground level – and carved out by an Egyptian priest
Father Yemata’s journey established a church which the congregation can now only reach by scaling a 19ft-high rock wall without ropes or harnesses.
Anyone wanting to pay a visit nowadays must also make their way along narrow ledges and cross a rickety makeshift bridge.
But families have brought their newborn babies there to be baptised, while corpses have been carried up to be buried on the mountain.
Some of the priests at the church – which was virtually unknown to the public until the Sixties – are said to have been up there for 40 years.
Interior design: The stunning frescoes inside the Abune Yemata Guh church remain extremely well preserved thanks to their remote location
It is not known why Father Yemata established the church – with theories suggesting he wanted to pray alone in the clouds, or even escape raiders.
The stunning frescoes inside the churches remain extremely well preserved thanks to them being hidden in such an inaccessible place of worship.
Also featured in the images taken by photographer Olivier Grunewald are the churches of Abune Abraham, Mariam Korkor and Abune Michael Kebe.
The mountains are located about 500 miles north of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and are around 60 miles south of the border with Eritrea.
Climbing: Visitors must take a dangerous route to the Abune Yemata Guh (left). Also pictured is the interior of Abune Abraham church (right)
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