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Adadi Mariam Rock Hewn Church

The southern-most extant rock-hewn church in Ethiopia, Adadi Mariam lies along the road to Butajira. It is the only rock-hewn church to exist this far south in this region. The church is not as monolithic as the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, but it has a lot of similarities.

1.1 Location:

The rock-hewn church of Adadi Mariam lies within Adadi Mariam farmers association and Kersa and Qondaltiti district of the Oromia National Regional State. Kersa and Qondaltiti woreda is one of the one hundred eighty districts in the region. This district is bordered in the west by Kokir, in the south by the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region, in the east by the Misraq Showa Zone, in the north-east by Alemgena town and in the north-west by the town of Tole. The major town in the district isLeman.
Geographically, the church lies between 8057’53” N and 38029’54” E longitude and latitude respectively. The altitude of this area is about 1900 meters above sea level.

The church is located 55 kilometers to the south of Addis Ababa on the main road of Butajera after passing of Melka Kunture pre-historic archaeological site, and before reaching the world Heritage Site of Tiya on 12 kilometers from the main road to south west. The road altogether is 67 kilometer and, the 12 kilometer is not asphalted but properly done. Before reaching the church, there is a small bridge on the Adadi Mariam River and there is market place near to the river. Then, Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church is found on the south west of the market not more than 100 meters.

1.2. Environmental setting:

The geological map of Ethiopia shows the occurrence of great variety of rocks of various ages, i.e. from the Precambrian era up to present (Kazmin, 1972).
The different geological eras had their own contribution for the formation of Ethiopian landform. The present geological make up of Ethiopia was widely shaped by Cenozoic, volcanic and tectonic episodes. Due to this, today the Ethiopian land forms are characterized by various geomorphologic features. These geomorphologic features in Ethiopia ranging from flat-toped plateaus, high and rugged mountains, deep river gorges, rolling plains, long sub vertical to vertical escarpments, structural depressions and elevated blocks to salt plains below sea level

The Adadi Mariam environment is characterized by rolling plan nature and river gorge, i.e. Adadi Mariam River near to the church. The church comprises ignimbrites and pumice nature of geological materials. The ignimbrite and pumice nature of the environment of Adadi Mariam facilitate the way for the run off the soil. Because the infiltration capacity of this type of rock is low, the soil type of this environment is black and clay. This soil has its own impact on the growing plant species and on the agricultural activities of the study area. Meaning, due to their high clay content, the soil retain much water which makes them sticky in wet seasons and crack severely in dry seasons ( Raynal etal,2004 ).

From the view point of climate, Adadi Mariam is generally characterized by a moderately warm, low rainfall area. Rains mainly occur in the period of June to September and to a lesser extent from the end of January to April (Informant, Alemu).
The altitudinal location of Adadi Mariam and its surroundings play a significant role for the distribution of plant species on the area. Some plant species that grow on the study area are Tid (Junipers), Girar (Acacia), Bahirzaf (Eucalyptus), Weira (Olive tree), Nech sar (Elephant grass). These plants are sparsely distributed. The compound of the church is better than the surroundings in possessing dense vegetation. The Elephant grass is dominantly found near to Adadi Mariam church even on the acme of the church. It is also related to the name of the church, which will be discussed later.

1.3. Socio-Economic Activities:
The semi urban settlement of Adadi Mariam is administered in Kersa and Qondaltiti district of Oromiya regional state. The twin districts also comprise Leman town and Adadi Mariam farmers association.
The population settled in and around Adadi Mariam is categorized under the Cushitic language family, i.e. Oromiffa language speakers. As mentioned above, Adadi Mariam and its surroundings are characterized by sparsely settlement. But near to the church, the settlement is at increasing level when comparing to the surrounding. Thus, it seems that the rock-hewn church of Adadi Mariam plays a major role for the increment of settlement near to it. However, the expansion of settlement and urban like activities are recent phenomena. Besides the church, the market place is also important for this development.

The Adadi Mariam and the surrounding setters are practicing mixed agriculture, both animal herding and cultivation. The agricultural practice is mainly depending on the rainy season. The farming activities are done near to the church. From the agricultural outputs of the area, Teff, Wheat Maize, Barley from cereals and Beans and Chickpeas from pulses. This moderate climatic nature of the area is also suitable for the other agricultural products.

Historical Development of Rock-Hewn Churches in Ethiopia.

Rock excavating tradition in Ethiopia dates back to ancient times starting from the dwelling of people in caves (Pankhurst, 1998). Later, mainly after the introduction of Christianity, carving rocks for worship purposes became an important activity and an element of socio-cultural force in Ethiopia (Finneran, 2011). Carving of churches from rocks creates special character for Ethiopia in the world.

Though there are disputes on the dating of those churches, it is very likely that most of them flourished during the medieval period. Beyond doubt, however, there are few churches dated back to the 5th and 6th centuries, during the Aksumite period (Mengistu, 2004). In this regard, the carved tombs of Kaleb and Gabra-Masqel are taken as examples. There are carving cross reliefs inside the tombs, which have similar to the Christian crosses depicted on the Aksumite coins and on some of the rock-hewn churches (ARCCH, 2009).
Evidences are shown that, after the introduction of Christianity in to Ethiopia during the 4th century, the necessity of ritual practicing areas become high. As a result, pre-Christian worshiping centers or temples had begun changed in to Christian churches, by lesser adaption such as carving crosses on the walls (Lindahl, 1970). There are scholars who argue that early pre-Christian temples were changed to Christian churches. It is basically true for the rock structures hewn before the coming of the nine saints. Those pre-Christian Axumite and pre-Axumite worship centers were often built on high altitudinal places where there were tall trees and streams. Dabra-Damo, Aba Penteleon, and Yeha are witnesses for this fact (UNESCO, 1981).

The coming of the Nine Saints in to Ethiopia said to have played a considerable role in the establishment of churches and monasteries as well as expansion of Christianity in the late 5th and early 6th centuries. Some of their hand impressions are found on some of the rock-hewn churches of Tigray region. It is also said they had practiced Egyptian and Syrian Desert fathers’ tradition in and around Aksum, the tradition of rock-cut worship centers. Early Egyptian and Syrian Christian fathers had retreated to solitary cave in deserts to achieve their spiritual duties without any disturbance. Gradually, other monks followed the practice and later it has become a universal culture of asceticism (EOC, 1997). Such traditions are believed to have been the basis to the tradition of rock-hewn churches in Ethiopia (Mengistu, 2004).

There is also another view forwarded to explain the origin of rock-hewn churches in Ethiopia. It is associated with the view that several models of the rock-hewn churches in Ethiopia have been brought from place in the Eastern Mediterranean world and/or from early Christian period along the Nile Valley (Lindlah, 1970).

During the early medieval period, rock-hewn churches were highly developed and widely spread to different parts of the country. The prominent churches are found in Lasta area and many of them are attributed to Emperor Lalibela and his reign (Pankhurst, 1998).
During medieval period rock churches had preferred than wood and built up churches. According to some writers, three factors are usually considered to justify the preference of excavated churches from rocks. First and for most, it is stated that rock-hewn churches have symbolic importance in association with biblical traditions. The birth and burial places of Christ are related with a cave in Bethlehem and curved rock in Golgotha. It is indicated in the New Testament that Christ was buried in a rock tomb, witnessed by Mathew:
And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out in the rock (math, 27: 59-60).
Therefore, there is a belief by some scholars that churches were carved from rocks during medieval period of Ethiopia in association with the afro-mentioned religious symbolism.
Secondly, the durability and everlasting nature of rock-hewn structures and built up cave churches might have led builders of the time to focus on rock-cut churches than wood and masonry buildings.

The third factor of choosing rock-cut churches is that they did not require a more labour consuming method of construction (Lindahl, 1969). In other words, advanced or complex tools were not necessary for rock- cutting and construction of churches. However, it is important to take into account that the nature of rocks is different from place to place. For instance, some rock types like volcanic rocks are easy to cut and fashion than the others. Therefore, the availability of rocks by itself could be a factor to build a rock-hewn church.
Rock-Hewn churches that are built and excavated on rock are three types. These are built up cave churches, rock-hewn cave churches and rock-Hewn Monolithic churches. They can also be expressed as monolithic, semi-monolithic and cave churches.
Monolithic churches are churches separated from the main rock by trenches on all sides. It is free standing and joined to the main rock only at the base. Four of the Lalibela churches are best examples of monolithic type rock-hewn churches.

 Semi-monolithic churches are partially separated from the main rock with various degrees of attachment to the rock. There are many churches in Ethiopia that belong to this group. Adadi Mariam church, the subject of this research, is a semi-monolithic rock-hewn church.

 The cave churches are ordinarily buildings built inside a natural cave, the cave is mainly selected for protection purpose from damaging by natural and man-made factors (Pankhurst, 1998).

It is also important to note that there are writers who attribute the work of rock-hewn churches to the foreigners. However, there are a number of evidences that testify the rock-hewn churches in Ethiopia are mainly products of indigenous work and knowledge.
According to Mengistu (2011), there are some justifications for this argument. Firstly, the division of churches into three parts, the presences of three entrances (usually in west, north and south) and east-west orientation of sanctuary are some common characteristics of Ethiopian orthodox churches. Secondly, the local innovations of ancient Aksumite architectural style such as ‘monkey heads’, recession and projection styles, shape of Aksum stele are revealed on some of the later period churches including the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. Very little foreign impacts are found on Ethiopian church architecture. Moreover, they would have left their own imprints or there would have been a reflection of certain elements of their homelands on the churches. Both oral traditions and historical sources in Ethiopia have confirmed the indigenous workmanship of Ethiopian rock-hewn churches.

Development and Description of Adadi Mariam Rock-Hewn Church.

3.1. Historical Development:
Local tradition associates the establishment of Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church with king Lalibela, one of the prominent kings of Zagwe Dynasty during the 12th century. King Lalibela is said to have built the eleven rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Lasta within twenty three years.  According to the hagiography of Lalibela, King Lalibela used local people as daily laborers to excavate and construct rock-hewn churches in different parts of the country. It is added that, at night Angeles came and multiplied the works of Lalibela.
According to the hagiography of Lalibela, there are seventy six rock-hewn churches which were constructed and excavated by Emperor Lalibela. Adadi Mariam is stated as one of them.

There is a strong tradition about the coming of Lalibela to the region of Shewa and excavated Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church. This story is also found in the book known as Tefut in Gishen Debre Kerbie monastery and in Sodo Debre Ader (Mahder) church of Zuquala mount. The book of Tefut stated about the founding of the true cross and its coming from Jerusalem and stayed in Adadi Mariam for seven days (informant, Yonas).
According to Oral traditions, the establishment of Adadi Mariam church is related to the coming of one of the prominent saints of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church, Abune Gabre Menfes Qedus, from Egypt and a visit made by king Lalibela. The saint is said to have founded the monastery of Mount Zuquala in Southern Shoa. It is said that the saint came to Ethiopia after when king Lalibela completed the construction of churches at Roha.
The tradition added that before the journey of saint Gabra Menfes Qedus to southern Shoa, he stayed in Lasta with king Lalibela. Then he went to mount ziquala where his monastery is found. After some years king Lalibela went to receive blessing from Abune Gabra Menfas Qedus. While they were visiting the monastery together, Lalibela saw a tent in a light and saint Mary with her Baby in her arm on top of it and white doves coming up and down for missions from the monastery to the western direction which is the present location of Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church (informant, M.M Tesfaye).
Then, king Lalibela suddenly went to establish the church on the area and started the work. It is said to be happened during the last quarter of 12th century and early 13th century. Finally he put the tabot of Saint Mary into the church and its consecration took place immediately. It is also said that Lalibela did not finish the construction of the church and still the unfinished part of the church is observable. The excavation of this church is said to have been completed within three years. (Informant, Dejene)

The name ‘Adadi’ was given due to two reasons (informant, M.M. Tesfaye). One is derived from the name of a tree, known as elephant grass, which is up to one and half to three meter high, white and grew on the acme of the church. The name of the tree is “Anfar” in Amharic and “Adi’ Adi” in Oromiffa language. Since the local people were Oromipha language speakers they used the term “Adi’ Adi”, which gradually becomes Adadi. Second, it is said that during the excavation of the church, the Oromo community of the area observed the white doves coming up and down and they said “Addi Naama” which means “that is white people” and associated them with angles. As a result they began to use the word Adadi. The name of the place before the establishment of the church is unknown.
Though there are argument regarding on the issues why or for what purpose the church was originally built, there are indicators showing it was intended for religious worship from the beginning. The three parts of the church, twenty one stairs and the cross over the roof of the Maqdes are among the evidences.
Adadi Mariam church provided religious services from the time of its establishment up until the wars of Ahmed Gragn a Muslim leader in 16th century. However, during wars, Christian setters were persecuted and the rest of them migrated and the church was closed and sealed with stone by the invaders. Sacred objects of the church including the tabot were transported to Ziway islands (informant, Yonas).
It is a well known historical fact that the fierce and cruel fighting was disastrous for cultural heritages, art, and literature from both sides, i.e. Christian and Muslims, and many of documents, manuscripts were destroyed and burnt down. However, the essential and most valuable works was saved as they were sent to inaccessible monasteries in the mountains (B. W. Andrzejewski, et al. 1985). Therefore, religious services were interrupted in Adadi Miriam for three hundred years.

In 1880, during the period of king Menelik II an official called Grazmach Wolde Giorgis who was sent as governor, brought a tabot of Saint Marry from Tegulet, Azigedel Meqlesles kebele and put it in a cave for a short period in Awash Kombolcha Mogoro where religious service were conducted. It was in 1882 that the tabot come back to Adadi Mariam church and religious services has continued as it was previously (informant, Alemu).
3.2. Description of Adadi Mariam Church.
3.2.1 The Surrounding:
Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church is not visible for viewers from far even within the compound. The Anfar grass on the acme of the church and cross including five Ostrich eggs on the cross can be seen if one is close to four to three meters near to the church. It is because of the subterranean nature of the church. Adadi Mariam rock hewn church is a type of rock-hewn cave church excavated in wards from a more or less vertical cliff.  It is also partially separated from the main rock with various degrees of attachment to the rock.

Anfar and the cross on the acme of the church

There are three entrances, from the east for priests, from north for men and from south for women. The church has ten doors and twenty four windows. The ten doors signify the Ten Commandments and the twenty four windows represent the twenty four heavenly priests (informant, Dejene). The church has a size about 19 ½ x16 meters and has the capacity to hold 200 to 300 faithful. Like other churches of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church, Adadi Mariam has three parts known as Qenne mahlet (nave), Qeddest (Middle part), and Maqdes (sanctuary) or holies of holies.
3.2.2. Exterior of the church:
From the exterior the architectural feature of Adadi Mariam Church is not that much attractive as compared to the rock-hewn churches in other parts of Ethiopia. The three entrances of the church have many stairs; two of them have twenty one stairs that represent the twenty first monthly festivity of Saint Mary.

Entrances of men (left) and women (right)

After finishing the stairs in wards, there is a drainage system or sewerage that surrounds the church. Roughly it is half meter by half meter. To pass the sewerage, there is a bridge like stone naturally attached to the main rock. It is true for all entrances. The sewerage makes more or less circular shape and passes to Adadi River in the east of the church. The final exit wall of the sewerage is the main rock, approximately, four to five meter height and one to two meter width. At the top of this wall, there is a bridge made from wood and stone which seems a recent phenomenon and at the bottom it is closed for safety. This big sewerage wall might be created to transport unnecessary fractured rocks to the river during excavation.

Drainage system and the bridge

There are more than twenty posts that support the main structure of the church. The height as well as the thickness of those posts is different. For instance, the height and thickness of the men entrance post is 110×2.15 meter. It does not apply for the other entrance posts. Beside those posts, there are connectors in four directions, the structure with the face rock at each head corner.

The presence of posts might be resulted from understanding the softy nature of the rock and to strengthen the structure.

Men entrance. Adadi Mariam Church

The praying cell and other caves which purposefully excavated for resting of saints bone are also among the exterior architectural features of the church. The cell which is found in the eastern parts of the church or just left of priests’ entrance stair is purposefully excavated for praying place. It is excavated on the main rock at a place of 1.7x1meter and it has the capacity to serve three people. However, it is not comfortable because of the top of the cell, i.e. the roof is downward curve and decreases its height at left and right side. There are also very small cells near to it. The other cell is found in northern part of the church or just between the entrance stairs of the priests and men. It is in the mid part of the face (main) rock. It is without stairs but fractured natural rocks helps to move up. Within this cell, there are bones of saints with in metal box who are not yet clearly identified.

The praying cell and its interior

3.2.3. Interior of the church:
The internal part of Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church consists of three parts. It is the common feature of Ethiopian orthodox churches, either rounded or rectangular ones. They are Qene Mahlet (nave). Qeddest (the middle one) and Meqdes (the Sanctuary).

Bones of Ethiopian saints. Adadi Mariam Church

Qenne Mahlet is the first part where hymns are sung and cantors stand. At this part the community at large has ready to access. This part of Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church has seven meter width. It has a circular form with door and windows. The entrance door towards the north has 1.7 meter high and 1.1 meter width. It is more or less squared comparing with other doors. Windows measure 1×0.9meter towards the north and 95×90 centimeter towards the south with 70 centimeter thickness.

Part of the church’s interior

The roof over the Qene Mahlet is decorated by beam like structure in the four directions. It passes the first part roof and entered to the next part, i.e. Qeddest.
The Qeddest is the second part in Ethiopia orthodox churches. This part is generally reserved for the faithful who come to receive the Holy Communion. This part of the church has four meter width. The doors and windows are more or less similar with the nave ones, but the thickness of windows are increased from 70 centimeter to 90 centimeter. It seems that great attention was given for the strength of the inner part than the first one. The beam over the roof of the Qeddest also passed to the last part. The rectangular nature of this part does not allow rotating the church unlike the nave.
The inner most part is known as Maqdes, the holies of holies. It is the place where the tabot rests and to which only priests and deacons have an access to it. The only door of this part measures 1.7×1 meter. It is a square like and unlike Qene Mahlet does not allow to rotate. The back side of this part is a strong rock because of its thickness, which is also used as a wall of the nave part. The Maqdes is guarded carefully. The beam which comes through the roof of the Nave and the Qeddest becomes a cross over the roof of Maqdes, when intersect from the four directions.

Cultural Heritage and its management in Adadi Mariam Church.

4.1. Cultural Heritage and Tourism:
According to the Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage Proclamation No. 209/2000 cultural Heritage is defined as follow:
Anything tangible or intangible which is the product of creativity and labor of man in the pre-history and history times, that describes and wetness to the evolution of nature and which has a major value in its scientific history, cultural, artistic, and handcraft content.
Accordingly, Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church is endowed with great potential of cultural treasures. Many of the cultural treasures are conserved and protected since the time of the re-birth of the church in the 18th century. As discussed previously, the cultural treasures before 18th century had burned down and the rest moved to other places because of the wars of Ahmed Gragn and others.
The cultural heritage of Adadi Mariam can be described by dividing them in to tangible and intangible. The Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage proclamation has also defined tangible cultural heritage as:
Cultural heritage is that can be seen and felt and includes immovable of movable historical, and manmade cultural heritage.
Adadi Mariam church contains a variety of tangible cultural treasures within its treasury house. They are found in a good condition as priests are aware of managing and protecting their sacred objects.
The tangible cultural heritage found in Adadi Mariam church includes the tabot (Replica of the Arc of Covenant), liturgical objects, Crosses, bells, vestments, church music instruments and so on.
In Adadi Mariam church ten tabots are found in the Sanctuary. The tabot is usually wrapped with linen cloth and housed in Manbar and only priests are allowed to touch it. The tabot is carried by priests during the celebration of Timket (Ethiopian Epiphany) and the annual commemoration of saints (Informant, Dejene). The tabot is the one precious and the most sacred ecclesiastical object in every Ethiopia Orthodox Church. It is one of the Judaic elements retained by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (Schmidt, 1963).

liturgical bell

In Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church treasury house there are various collection of spiritual books written on parchments in Geez language. From those various collections: the Holy Bible, New Testament, Miracles of Mary, the Faith of Fathers, liturgical books, Hymn books, prayer books are found. Many of these manuscripts are with various illuminations (decorations), on their covers and inside the folio’s (pages). Each folio’s of the manuscript has two columns and written in red and black color.
Paintings of saints are found in Adadi Mariam church. The paintings on the walls of the church are appealing to the eyes. The one and the popular Saint Mary paintings are dominated the wall of the church. There are also paintings of paintings of Saint Abune Gabra Manfas Qedus, birth of the Christ, Apostles at dinner, the Holy Trinity and the other church paintings on the walls of Adadi Mariam church.
In Adadi Mariam there is a stone which locally considered as sacred. It catches the attentions of the visitors because a person who can hold it in his shoulder is not sinner according to the legendary belief of the local people.  The stone is dark brown and measures 43×43 centimeter.

Sacred Stone

Beside of the movable cultural heritage, Adadi Mariam church has immovable treasures. These are historical caves around the church and Burial places. The historical caves are large in number but, the well- known are the Gbzina cave, Kirstana cave, Tibebu cave and Tulu Lemen cave. No research is conducted on these caves. However, it can be assumed that these caves might have been used as a fortress for the warrior groups during the wars of Ahmed Gragn. They could be also excavated by the order of Grazmach Wolde Giorgis for the purpose of staying tabot and other liturgical objects. As Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church was closed during the wars, these caves might used as a temporal church until the re-excavation of Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church.
The burial places are found in the compound of Adadi Mariam church. These burial places are different. For instance there are surface burials and burial on the walls of rocks.  The surface burial place is found in the back side of the church or in southern direction. It is very near to the church. On these burials (tombs) crosses are erected. This type of burial place is a common characteristic of Orthodox Christian churches. But the second types of burial place seem a mass grave, because a collection of human remains are found together. This burial place is found on the wall of the face rock towards north. There are common characteristic for these two burial places. Both of them are considered as saints’ burials though there is no known information about the deceased on the tombs. In Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church there is no elaborated Christian burial markers without crosses erecting on the tomb.

Surface burial. Adadi Mariam Church

Intangible cultural heritage in Adadi Mariam Church is associated with religious festivals and rituals. According to the Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage Proclamation No 209/2000, intangible cultural Heritage is defined as:
Any cultural Heritage that cannot be felt by hands but can be seen or heard and includes different kinds of performance and show, Folklore, religious, belief, wedding and mourning ceremonies, music, drama, literature and similar other cultural values, traditions and customs of nation, nationalities and people.
Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church is one of the sacred area which is reached by monthly and annual religious ceremonies by several Ethiopian Orthodox church faithful. Particularly the two annual ceremonies, held on November and January 21st, local time, are colourfully celebrated in Adadi Mariam church attended by a large group of people.
Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church is found on the most accessible area for visitors. It is found on the outlet of southern Ethiopia tourist attraction areas. Foreign tourists visit Adadi Mariam on the way of their journey to southern Ethiopia. If these visitors carried camera they pay 50 birr and 10 birr is the regular fee. The domestic visitors travel to Adadi mainly for education and religious purposes. There is no fee at all paid by domestic visitors. According to my informant Dejene, visitors are high on Saturday and Sunday.
4.2. Heritage Management Issues:
One of the major problems of Adadi Mariam church in relation to heritage management is the question of ownership. According to the Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage Proclamation No. 209/2000, Cultural heritage may be owned by the state or by any person. The proclamation also classified cultural heritage at national and regional level.
Adadi Mariam has been neglected for many centuries as a result of conflict between the church and the local government regarding ownership and management problems. The poor management system and inactive proclamation of the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) has also a contribution for these problems.
According to the Oromiya culture and Tourism Bureau, the church was registered as heritage first in regional level and later at federal level. However, the church could not benefit from its registration as a heritage. According to ARCCH proclamation cultural heritage registration is conducted as follow:
Registration in the form prepared to collect wide information of cultural Heritage, which shall include, photographing recording in film or video as appropriate, so as to put in place the means to catalogue, inspect, study, prefect and conserve cultural heritage and facilitate utilization of same for the purpose of recreation and education.
Despite the proclamation, the church is not properly recorded and studied. Besides ARCCH, the Oromia culture and tourism Bureau as well as of Kersa and Qondaltiti Tourism Office also hold the responsibility.
According to the information obtained from the administrative head of the church, the church has got supports twice from the ARCCH in 1992 by the financial aid of Switzerland to conduct restoration works on both the interior and exterior parts of the church. However, the restoration work was conducted not in a proper way. ARCCH proclamation state that A general protection and preservation activity carried on a cultural Heritage without changing is antique content.

Restoration works. Adadi Mariam Church

The restoration work seem a writing of new history as the staircases are changed to modern ceramics as well as the roof of Qene Mahlet and Qeddest are supported by a big metal. The horizontal crack of the roof is filled with jesso and the color changes to white from its original black color.
The second support from ARCCH to the church is registration of the cultural treasures. During the Derg period all treasures which are found in the treasury house of the church were registered.
Currently, the church is administered by the South Shewa diocese. The necessity fund could be raised from this diocese. There is no other alternative source to generate income for the church without the small number of foreign tourists’ fee and the faithful tithe. This is mainly resulted from negligence and ignorance works of governmental organizations.
Factors facilitating the deterioration of the church are very large in number. They can be categorized into two major groups as natural and human factor. Natural factors include geological, biological, climatic, hydrological factors and natural disasters. The geological problems faced the church are fracturing and weathering. The major discontinuities (cracks or fractures) are observed in the external as well as the internal walls and roof.  The softy nature of the rock (some sense of pumis type) allows the passage of water.

Crack on the wall

The Biological factors for the damaging of the church are both plants and animals. The anfar tree on the acme of the church takes the lion share for the deterioration as the roots of trees have caused cracking on the church. Besides the anfar, the surrounding trees, lichens and mosses also have the contribution for the damage. The Anfar tree also plays a significant role by inhabiting animals like birds and rats. The dead bodies of the animals as well as plants themselves facilitate the growing seeking of water during dry season.
The principal climatic factors responsible for the deterioration of both movable and immovable heritages are solar radiation, temperature variations, direct rainfall impact, wind pressure and humidity (UNESCO, 1972). The resisting capacity of the rock and the treasures in the church has decreased as matter of their age, the mismatching of the sacred objects component and the preservation area. Humidity is also another factor. The sum total of these factors caused the decaying of various heritages in the church.
The human made agents of deterioration are very large in number. They are created intentionally or unintentionally.  Urbanization and population increment are good examples in this regard.  There is also a misconception of looking heritages as obstacles of development.
There is a fear that the small town near to the church may facilitate the movement of people from another place to Adadi in the future and will affect the heritage. Moreover, the market place near to the church is also a threat. Population expansion and urbanization will create pressure in the compound of the church as a result of the need of burial places. Waste disposal system and planting of trees near to the church reflects poor management system of heritage in the church.
Unwise conservation and electrical installation works belong to the deterioration factors of Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church. The entrancing staircases lost their religious context as a result of unwise conservation works. Before the restoration, each entrancing had 21 stairs but now it is changed by modern ceramics and the numbers of stairs are decreased. The root of internal parts is painted by white colours that lead to the loss of the original rock color which was black. A big metal operational work conducted to support the root because of cracking also affects the church’s original character. For the sake of electrical installation work some roof and wall parts are drilled. Some of the drilled holes are closed by wood.


There is no strong research conducted on Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church. Oral traditions attribute the establishment of the church to king Lalibela during the 12th century. Some people assumed that this church was the last work of Emperor Lalibela of the Zagwe Dynasty.
This rock-hewn church provides several values including architectural, historical, archaeological, economical, political, spiritual, and so on. It also reflects the then environment as well as the civilization.
Adadi Mariam rock-hewn church is the only still standing rock-hewn church built in the 13th Century and found in southern part of the country. However, it has faced several threats due to management problems.  Therefore, the following recommendations are given.

In order to prevent further deterioration of the church, trenches and drainage systems should be cleaned.  This will minimize the amount of infiltration the rock masses.

To reduce the impact of rain fall, sunshine, and biological colonization’s it is good to cut the anfar on the acme of the church

The church has to be sheltered with the most possible care for the aesthetic look.

Conservation works should be based on a well prepared and a well organized approach  and multidisciplinary study has to be conducted

Promotion works have to be done properly. Adadi Mariam church lacks an effective promotion work. The Culture and tourism offices and the church society should inform to visitors, researchers as well as the concerning body by using various mechanisms of promotion such as, magazines, newspapers, radio, etc. Those promotion works can facilitate the ways to study and document properly the heritage and to provide up-to-date and reliable information for visitors.

The means of transportation has to be improved; in as much as transportation have a significance role to increase the number of tourists.  The twelve km gravel road of Adadi should be done properly.

Accommodation and access facilities should be fulfilled; the present condition of accommodation as well as access in Adadi is very poor. There should be adequate hotels that can provide foods, rooms and other facilities. The access of modern communication and information system like banking has to be also introduced to the area.

Local population should participate in the work of conservation and the benefit that can be obtained in relation to the church. It is important to invite Private investors to work in the area.