AFRICANGLOBE – 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.
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 makeshift bridge.
But families have brought their newborn babies there to be baptised, while dead bodies 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.
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.
By: Mark Duell