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    Posted February 23, 2014 by
    Lake Tana, Ethiopia
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Travel photo of the day

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    Ura Kidane Mihret Monastery


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     JuleeK said that the Ura Kidane Monastery in Lake Tana, Ethiopia, wasn't easily accessible. "I had to take a boat ride followed by a short walk through the forest to get to the monastery," she said. But she thought the trek was worthwhile and suggests that anyone who visits Bahir Dar put a visit to the monastery on their to-do list. "The significance of what you see lies not only in the remoteness of the monastery but in the beauty of the paintings," she said. "The liturgical painting style and choice of colors was very similar to what I saw in other churches, but the colors were so vibrant here." The first photo was featured as CNN's Travel Photo of the Day on April 10, 2014.
    - Verybecoming, CNN iReport producer

    Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia. There are some 37 islands scattered about and some twenty of these shelter churches and monasteries. On a recent trip to Ethiopia, my travel partners and I set out to explore a few of the churches and monasteries located on Lake Tana. But as it would turn out, the first one we visited and ultimately, in our opinion, the most beautiful monastery was not situated on an island but rather on the Zege Peninsula, a small finger of land located near the southern shore of the lake.

    We arrived to Zege Peninsula via boat from the nearby town of Bahir Dar. It took us about an hour and it was an enjoyable ride across the lake. We docked on the Peninsula and from there walked through a forest dotted with coffee plants. It was near harvest time and the plants were laden with bright red fruit. The occasional monkey could be spotted jumping from branch to branch.

    Our path ended at a freestanding, double arched entryway. On the other side was the complex of Convent of Mary, founded in the 14th century. Ura Kidane Mihret is a monastery that is part of this complex; the monastery dates from the 16th century. With its adobe buildings topped with thatched roofs and paths winding through native flora, the convent complex feels more like a small African village than the complexes that I’m more accustomed to seeing in other parts of the world. The elements of Christian architecture can be seen including a bell, albeit it one hewn from rock, and a cross atop the roof.

    Like most of the Ethiopian churches that I had visited, Ura Kidane Mihret is circular in shape. The interior is divided into three sections – the number representing among other things, the Holy Trinity. The outermost section takes you full circle around the church and is the only area where the public is allowed; this is where parishioners come to pray. The next section in is reserved for clergy and the very inner sanctum is where the church’s copy of the Ark of the Covenant is housed; every church in Ethiopia has its own copy.

    Without a doubt, Ura Kidane Mihret was one of the most beautiful churches I had visited in Ethiopia. Every inch of wall is painted and the murals date back to about 100 to 250 years ago. The colors ars still so vibrant and that style of the paintings is typical Ethiopian Christian. Most are of scenes from the Bible though Mary figures strongly in many of the paintings, as does St. George, the patron saint of Ethiopia.

    Ura Kidane Mihret is a very small monastery – we were there for barely a half hour, which far surpassed the time that it took us to get here and return to Bahir Dar but, it was worth every minute of that effort to see this little gem of a church!
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