An archaeological study of rock churches in Lasta, Northern Wollo

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Addis Ababa University


Early churches constructed in Lasta from the sixth to the fifteenth century include churches built under protective roof of caves of different rock types and rock hewn churches excavated from largely volcanic rock with varying degree of detachment from bed rocks. The churches are believed to be hewn and constructed based on basilica architectural styles and adopting elements of Pre-Christian Axumite structures. The dates for the churches are highly depended on traditional sources. Based on these accounts more than seven churches in Lasta are established during the 6th century. Thus, they were built during the Axumite Kingdom. The expansion of the Axumite Kingdom to Lasta in the 6th century provided suitable ground for expansion of Christianity and resultant establishment of churches in the area. Cultural continuity between the Axum and the later periods is endured in rock churches of Lasta. Built up churches of Debre Damo, Yimrehane Kiristos and Imekina Medihanialem are churches product of different periods which show great resemblance to each other. There are also strong similarities in their plan and individual architectural elements of the churches of Bete Medihanialem and Genete Maryam. The churches remained hidden in mountainous landscape of Lasta. Through time some of the churches are deteriorated because of natural and manmade causes. Little is done to document, promote, conserve and research the churches. As a result the contribution of the tourism sector for development of the region and the country at large remained insignificant



Rock churches