The world’s most inaccessible church is located in Ethiopia. It is called Abuna Yemata Guh, and worshippers have to climb a high, steep rock to attend services.
The Orthodox church stands at 2,500 feet (762 meters) above ground and is carved into the side of a cliff with a sheer drop of 650 feet (198 meters) on all sides.
Abuna Yemata Guh is a monolithic church located in the rocky mountains of Gheralta in
Hawzen woreda, an administrative district of the Tigray Region in Ethiopia. It is situated on a cliff with a height of 8,460 feet (2,580 meters) and has to be climbed to reach.
Devout worshippers and visitors alike have to cross a natural stone bridge with a steep drop of approximately 820 feet (250 meters) on either side.
After that, they have to cross a narrow wooden footbridge, followed by a climb up a vertical rock wall where they have to use hand grips and foot holds on bare feet, as the place is considered a holy ground, and footwear of any kind is not permitted.
Then they walk over a roughly twenty inch (50 cm) wide ledge facing a cliff with a 980 foot (299 meters) steep drop.
Once inside, one understands why people of faith and travelers go through such hardships to reach the particular church. What stand out are the architecture, dome, and Byzantine-style hagiography and art dating back to the fifteenth century. It is claimed that the icons were actually painted ten centuries earlier.
The sandstone walls are adorned with icons of saints and images from the Bible, as well as depictions of parables, mainly of the Old Testament and other Orthodox Christian art.
Saint Abuna Yemata and the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia buried in a cliff
Local legend has it that the church in Ethiopia was built by Saint Abuna Yemata, one of the Nine Saints of Syria, Constantinople, or Rome to bring Orthodox Christianity to Ethiopia in the late fifth century.
According to yet another legend, the church was constructed in the sixth century and dedicated to Abuna Yemata. The Nine Saints are traditionally believed to have originated from Rome, Constantinople, and Syria between the end of the fifth and beginning of the sixth centuries.
Church paintings date back to the initial traces of Christianity in Ethiopia and are centered around the Nine Saints and twelve apostles. The oldest icons are in the form of diptychs and triptychs.
The Abuna Yemata Guh church in Ethiopia has a local guide and vanguards at every step of the way to ensure that visitors know which foothold to use, which rock to climb, and to generally help out with the ropes.
The scary climb does not deter churchgoers and adventurous travelers, young or old. Even mothers carrying babies on their back endeavor to climb up to the church so as to attend services there.