Debre Damo Monastery

Debre Damo Monastery
The ancient monastery of Debre-Damo dates back to early Axumite period and is considered to be the oldest church in the country. Unlike other monasteries and churches, Debre-Damo is built on the edge of a cliff accessible only by a rope. The relic, 2800m above see level lies 184 km far from Mekelle and 41 km from Adigrat towns.

The flat-topped “Amba” (plateau) is surrounded by sheer cliffs. A scent to the mountain top is only possible by using the 15m plaited leather rope (the “Jende”) that is hanging down from the summit. The church is dedicated to its founder, Abune Aregawi (Zemikal), one of the ‘nine saints’ who taught gospel in the country in the 6th century. According to local tradition, Abune Aregawi is believed to have been taken to the top of the Amba with the help of a serpent that was commanded to do so by God. Today the ‘Jende’ symbolizes the miraculous serpent. Visitors need to be tightly tied up around their waists by the supplementary rope as a means of additional safety. Female visitors are not allowed to the church.

The monastery of Debre Damo possesses many treasures including ancient manuscripts, crosses, etc. visiting the monastery emotionally takes you back to the distant past of Ethiopian religious life, or as Professor Richard Pankhurst rightly concludes, “it takes today’s traveler into a past age and leave him with a deeper understanding of Ethiopia’s age old and unique civilization than mere words can give.” (Tour itinerary)


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