Saving Tigray's painted churches

Over the past few years, the Ethiopian Heritage Fund has been scaling cliffs and mountains to study and conserve the remarkable rock-hewn painted churches of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, currently in the grips of conflict. Blair Priday, Stephen Rickerby, and Lisa Shekede guide us through their work.

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Ethiopian Heritage Fund Newsletter

November 2019

Earlier this year, the Ethiopian Heritage Fund was delighted to receive funding from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung  (GHS) to undertake a survey of the wall paintings in the churches of Tigray. We were also privileged to be selected by GHS as a the subject of a documentary video.

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Preserving and promoting Ethiopia’s Christian heritage - BBC NEWS

Two British specialists are helping the authorities in Ethiopia to restore and maintain precious paintings in churches in the north of the country. They’re often having to scale dangerous heights to do it. While there's no infrastructure or money in Ethiopia to maintain restoration work, Lisa Shekede and Stephen Rickerby are keen to help people there develop the skills to do it themselves in the future. Lisa spoke to BBC Newsday.

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Ethiopian Heritage Fund Newsletter

April 2019

Since our last newsletter there have been significant changes in Ethiopia and a number of developments for the charity.

A year ago, with political tensions rising, the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) elected Abiy Ahmed, a reformist leader from the Oromo community, as prime minister. This led to the release of large numbers of political prisoners and the opening of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

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The Anglo-Ethiopian Society News File

Invited to assist with plans for furnishing a museum at Cheleqot Selassie near Mekelle, I, along with supporters of the Ethiopia Heritage Fund (EHF), visited the church in December 2016 to see how we could help. Since then the EHF has drawn up plans to enhance the museum, and is now looking for donations, and information about the church’s collection of artefacts.

The Anglo-Ethiopian Society News File.pdf

Ethiopia Travellers’ Handbook

Trevor Jenner

In full colour throughout, over 600 photographs and many maps, Ethiopia Travellers’ Handbook contains 458 pages, packed with information to provide a clear understanding of all there is to see and do in Ethiopia.  

It describes all of the historical sites to see plus Ethiopia’s peoples, fauna, myths, history, development, political history, topography, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, language, and much more. Conceived for the independent and group traveller it is also designed for everyone wishing to have a range of facts at their fingertips. This book has been designed to be straightforward to use, without having to constantly refer to abbreviations and symbols and with maps that are uncomplicated and easy to follow. A high quality publication, ‘Flexibound’ for strength and durability, it contains completely independent travel advice. 

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Ethiopian Heritage Fund Newsletter

February 2017

The Ethiopian Heritage Fund has expanded its profile significantly over the year. We have been approached on a number of projects which involve not only conservation but the sharing of knowledge with university students, the church, tour operators and members of the Department of Tourism and Culture.

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Architecture as Sculpture, A Study of Ethiopian Rock-hewn Churches

Tarn Philipp The Art Workers Guild 
Thursday October 6

In 2015 Tarn Philipp won the prestigious ADAM Architectural Travel Scholarship to survey the rock-hewn churches of Tigray in Ethiopia. On the evening of Thursday October 6 he will describe his very original research, which includes full measured surveys of many churches visited, and will show how the centuries old craft of stone carving churches is still being practiced today.

Wall Paintings of Tigray, Ethiopia  Approaches to Preserving a Fragile Heritage

Blair Priday, Stephen Rickerby and Lisa Shekede The Anglo-Ethiopian Society News File, Spring 2016

The churches of Tigray, in northern Ethiopia, preserve a unique wall painting heritage, dating from the medieval period to the modern era. Like the celebrated examples in Lalibela, many of the painted churches are rock-hewn, but, because their scattered and mountain-top locations makes access challenging, they remain less well known.

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Rock of Ages - Ethiopia, Praises sing to its miraculous Rock Churches

Aidan Hartley
Vanity Fair Travel 2016

After 25 years Aidan Hartley  makes good on a promise and returns to Tigray to visit the ancient rock-cut churches. Travelling through Northern Ethiopia he encounters incredible beauty in landscape, history and people.

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British Team to Conserver Ethiopia’s oldest Wall Paintings

Martin Bailey
The Art Newspaper, 12 April 2016

A project to conserve Ethiopia’s oldest wall paintings, which experts believe date to around 1100 or soon after, is due to begin this month. They are in the church of Yemrehanna Kristos, a full-sized building constructed inside a cave in the Lasta Mountains at an altitude of 2,700m. The cave is above a valley of juniper trees and, until recently, could only be reached by a day’s journey on foot or mule from the town of Lalibela, in northern Ethiopia. The church’s interior is so dark that international specialists did not note the paintings’ existence until the 1990s; the first published account was in 2001.

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Ethiopian Heritage Fund Newsletter

February 2016

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Wall Paintings of Tigray, Ethiopia

9 September 2015

Approaches to preserving a fragile heritage by Lisa Shekede and Stephen Rickerby.

In association with the Coutauld Institute of Art Wednesday 9th September 6.30 - 8.00pm at The Art Workers Guild, 6 Queen Square, London WCINAT.

Tickets £10 available on the door

Click photo to enlarge

Africa Boards An exhibition at the St. Bride Foundation

24th September - 10th October 2014

In collaboration with Designer Bookbinders and The Ethiopian Heritage Fund

St.Bride Foundation will be exhibiting a unique project which was created to raise funds for the conservation of works of art in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia and the Mediterranean World
in Late Antiquity: The Garima Gospels in Context

2-3  November 2013

A two-day conference sponsored by the Ethiopian Heritage Fund at the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies University of Oxford was held on 2-3 November 2013.  Research presented at the Conference by Jacques Mercier suggests that the first Christian manuscript art may have come from Ethiopia. Read a report of the conference in the Arts Newspaper.

Ethiopian Heritage Fund - Garima Gospels in context-  image
Ethiopian Heritage Fund - church image

Ethiopia and the Church

September 2012

Lalibela : Wonder of Ethiopia The Monolithic Churches and their Treasures By Jacques Mercier and Claude Lepage.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lalibela is one of the most extraordinary places in the world. It contains thirteen churches, dating back to 12th century, hewn from rock in imitation of buildings. This is the first book to focus on this extraordinary site in all its many dimensions – historical and cultural, archaeological, architectural, art historical and documentary and has proved to be a fascinating detective story. Funded by Ethiopian Heritage Fund, and Published in association with Paul Holberton Publishing, London.
Read Philip Marsden's review in the Spectator Magazine
Read Thomas Packenham's review in the Burlington Magazine
Read Jacopo Gnisci's review in the SOAS Journal of research.