Ethiopia III Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

"Return to Ethiopia" Trip

September 22 - October 7, 2012

50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps in Ethiopia


September 29 - Saturday

The Monastery of Yemrehanna Kristos

The Monastery of Yemrehanna Kristos is located about 15 km from Bilbilla, Ethiopia, and 30 km from Lalibella. It is a 2 hour bone-jarring and butt-wrenching drive over bad road in an 4x4 vehicle without shock absorbers from Laibella (shocks do not last long on this road). Once you arrive, there is a steep 15-minute up hill walk up to the monastery through a small patch of juniper trees. Do not worry, there are many small bushes conveniently located along the trail for restroom stops. A reasonably fit individual may be able to make this journey. It is hard to imagine that a few years earlier, it was a 12 hour roundtrip Mule ride out of Lalibella to get to this monastery.

As you approach the monastery, a kindly priest (said to be one of the youngest Arch-bishops of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) is waiting to greet you. Situated in a large cave at a breath taking altitude of around 2,700 meter and protected by an unflattering modern outer wall is the Yemrehanna Kristos Monastery. It is constructed of wood and is faced with white gypsum. There are many interesting architectural features such as the cruciform carved windows, an etched wood-panel roof, a coffer ceiling with inlaid hexagons and a large dome over the sanctuary.

Legend has it that this church was built by its namesake, Yemrehanna Kristos, the third Zagwe ruler and a predecessor of King Lalibela, recorded as ascending to the throne in 1087 AD and ruling for about 40 years. Yemrehanna Kristos is credited with restoring links between Ethiopia and the Coptic Church. Another legend states that he visited Egypt during his reign, and the priests at the monastery claim that all the wood used in the monastery's construction was imported from Egypt, while the gypsum was brought from Jerusalem. The church and its natural spring holy waters formed an important site of pilgrimage in medieval times.  A muddy area in front of the monastery reveals the location of the spring with the source coming from a subterranean freshwater lake said to be below the cave. 

Behind the main building is a "scary"  cavern with a bone pile of some of the 11,000 Christian pilgrims who, according to still yet another legend, travelled from Egypt, Syria and Jerusalem to die at this monastery. Next to the bone pile are two decorated crypts, one is said to contain the remains on Yemrehanna Kristos.

We left the monastery in the evening and made the downhill return to our 4x4. Singing could be heard coming from the little Tukuls located on the other side of the valley, . As I paused to listen, the priest coming from behind asked "happy people, yes?" I responded,  "yes, very happy."

(Important note: All photographs, except where mentioned,  are copyrighted as of October 8, 2012, by Darrel and Betty Hagberg. Please request permission to use and please credit them).






























The crypt of  Yemrehanna Kristos.
























Singing  could be heard coming from across the valley from several groups in the evening.



Evening dinner being prepared.




Much needed facilities awaited us upon our return to Lalibella.


Click below for more Photos of the trip

September 22 Ethiopian Embassy Reception
September 23 Dulles Airport
September 24 Addis Ababa Airport Reception
September 24 Addis Ababa City Views
September 24 Hebir Restaurant Dinner Show - Addis Ababa
September 25 Addis Ababa City Views
September 25 Ethiopian President Welcome
September 25 Kotebe College for Teachers - Addis Ababa
September 25 US Embassy Reception
September 26 Ethnological Museum - Addis Ababa
September 26 Saint George Cathedral - Addis Ababa
September 26 Mercato Market Place - Addis Ababa
September 26 Meskel Celebrations - Addis Ababa
September 27 National Museum - Addis Ababa
September 27 Mount Entoto Overlook - Addis Ababa
September 27 Trinity Cathedral - Addis Ababa
September 27 Debre Berhan
September 28 Debre Berhan
September 28 Ankober
September 29 Lalibella and Market
September 29 Yemrehanna Kristos Church, Bilbilla
September 30 Churches of Lalibella
October 01 Stelae Field - Axum
October 01 Tombs of Kaleb and Gebre Meskel - Axum
October 01 The Enzana Stone - Axum
October 01 Queen of Sheba's Palace - Axum
October 01 Monastic Complex of Saint Mary of Zion - Axum
October 02 Mai Shum (Queen of Sheba's Swimming Pool - Axum
October 02 Fasilo Ghebbi (Royal Enclosure) - Gondar
October 02 Debre Birhan Selassie Church - Gondar
October 02 Wolieka (Falasha Village) - Gondar
October 03 Fasilidas's Pool - Gondar
October 03 Barhar Dar
October  04 Blue Nile Falls - Barhar Dar
October  04 Lake Tana - Barhar Dar
October  04 Church of Ura Kidane Mihret - Barhar Dar
October  05 Dire Dawa - Harar
October 06 Red Terror Museum - Addis Ababa
October 06 Babile - Harar - Dire Dawa
October 07 Dire Dawa
October 07 Farewell Dinner at Crown Hotel - Addis Ababa


Click below for more Ethiopia Web Site features

Map of Ethiopia and Eritrea (circa 1964)
Ethiopia III Trainees Book
In Country Assignments, 1964-1966
Photo Memories of Ethiopia
Ethiopian Art and Culture
Ethiopia III's Attending the 50th Reunion
Books on Ethiopia
Ethiopian Artifact Exhibition
Return to Home Page


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Ethiopia III Official Web Site

Copyrighted 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Betty McLaughlin Hagberg, Web Master

Updated on 6 November 2012