I was not smiling so much on this part of the journey. Yimrehane sits at about 8800 feet above sea level--- I also had a bit of traveler's gut.
This is the area of Yimrehane Kirstos , a monastery in northeast Lalibela (Tigre Region). The following is taken from the site http://www.traveladventures.org/continents/africa/yemrehanna-kristos-church.shtml. The church name is spelled in a variety of ways....
Yemrehanna Kristos was not all easy: the road deteriorated as we got closer. After we left the car behind, we walked up a mountain that was completely covered by a lovely juniper forest. Soon after leaving the car, we were approached by a multitude of people who were either blind, or missing a limb, had a seriously swollen neck, or other handicaps. In front of the church, we found a small opening in the woods, and a lovely waterfall spraying down from a rocky edge lushly overgrown with bright green vegetation. Unfortunately, a protective wall has been built which completely obscures the church from sight.
Once inside, it was directly clear to us that this was a unique church in the Lalibela area. Instead of a rock-hewn church, we saw a freestanding church under the natural roof of the cavern. It is actually a church constructed of layers of wood and white-faced granite, with large windows carved in cross-shape. According to legend, the church was constructed by Yemrehanna Kristos, a predecessor of King Lalibela in the late 11th century. Another legend wants us to believe that the wood of the church was imported from Egypt, while the granite blocks were taken from Jerusalem. Moreover, under the soil of the cavern there is thought to be a lake with curative powers.
Inside, probably one of the most striking features is the wooden ceiling with etched decorations. Inevitably, the priest proudly showed us the cross of the church. Our guide tried to convince us that the church, and especially the curative subterranean water, had such strong healing powers, that people in the surrouding area stopped going to a doctor, but instead relied on the church. Behind the church you can find a tent-like construction which is supposed to be the tomb of Yemrehanna Kristos. The real surprise of the complex is the bones of more than 10,000 people lying in the back of the cavern. They are the remains of Christian pilgrims from Syria, Jerusalem and other far-away areas who came all the way to die at this sanctity. We left Yemrehanna Kristos impressed by its beauty and peacefulness. The handicapped people, still begging for support, were not a strong proof of the healing powers we had heard so much about.
Visited: October 2006