Historical Attractions


Mekele is a city in northern part of Ethiopia. It is the capital of the Tigray region. There is a historic palace of Yohannes IV at the northern edge of the city.The palace was built at the Emperor’s command by Giacomo Naretti, who had served Yohannes at Debre Tabor, with the help of William Schimper, and completed in 1884. In 1872 Dejazmach Kassa of Tigray is crowned as Yohannes IV.

Yohannes was a committed Christian, Nationalist and a great military leader. When he builds his palace, he made sure the palace is surrounded by churches to show his dedication to Christianity until his death in 1889 at the battle of Metema.

The palace still stands and now serves as a museum, where the Emperor’s throne, royal bed, ceremonial dress, rifles and many other valuable historical collections can be seen.

This rural town is known around the world for its monolithic churches, which were built during the reign of Lalibela. There are 11 churches, assembled in three groups: The Northern Group: Bete Medhane Alem, home to the Lalibela Cross and believed to be the largest monolithic church in the world, probably a copy of St Mary of Zion in Aksum. It is linked to Bete Maryam, which is possibly the oldest of the churches; Bete Golgotha which is known for its arts and said to contain the tomb of King Lalibela; the Selassie Chapel and the Tomb of Adam.

The Western Group is Bete Giyorgis. It is said to be the most finely executed and best preserved church. The Eastern Group is Bete Amanuel, possibly the former royal chapel; Bete Merkorios, which may be a former prison; Bete Abba Libanos; and Bete Gabriel-Rufael, possibly a former royal palace and linked to a holy bakery.

In contrast to certain spurious myths, the great rock-hewn churches of Lalibela were not built with the help of the Knights Templar; rather, they were produced solely by medieval Ethiopian civilization. However, there is controversy as to when the churches were constructed. Some scholars believe that the churches were built well before Lalibela and that Lalibela simply named them after himself.