Tigrai Online, September 15, 2013
Abba Yohani Monastery in Tembein, Tigrai northern Ethiopia is one of the over 200 rock hewn churches found throughout the state. The rock hewn churches and monasteries were built around 1800 to 1600 years ago. Abba Yohani monastery was built in the fourth century by Abune Aron Ze Gamche also some work has been done with the help of Emperor Gebremeskel of Axum. Emperor Gebremeskel is the son of the famous Axumite King of Kings Emperor Kaleb.
These rock hewn churches are in addition to the impressive archilogical sites in Adwa, Axum and Kilte Awlaelo. The town of Yeha which is about 28 km, from the city of Adwa is believed to be a major center of the Diamat Kingdom established around 700 BCE. A ruin of a massive temple is still standing in the town.
The Tigrai rock hewn churches were built in high mountain cliffs where they can be defended easily. In the 10th century, the Jewish queen Yodit Gidion (Yodit Gudit) tried to eradicate Christianity by burning churches and valuable Christian books and artifacts. An invasion led by Ahmed Gragn (the “Ahmed the left-handed”) in the 16thc also destroyed valuable treasures and sign of the destruction still appear in many of the churches and monasteries.