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Few information about the church and its past has been published and most of the researches are little more than describing the church.. Almost all information about the church Kenkenit Mikael we owe to the archaeological study of the rock churches in Lasta by Natnael Katema, University Addis Ababa from the year 2012.
Link to the study
The monolithic church of Kenkenit Mikael is located in remote and inaccessible mountains and not well known to tourists and the local people. Kenkenit Mikael is located 17 km northeast of the town of Lalibela at elevation of 3135 m.a s.l. with UTM coordinates 509124 E and 1335006 N. It is a monolithic church. The type of rock from which the church is hewn contributed a lot for a deterioration the church is now facing. It is believed to be built by Girma Asferi, an Axumite King in the 7th century. The access to the church is through a cell found to the south west of the church. This independently excavated cell gives access to the courtyard.
The features at the entrance and inside this structure have striking similarities with other churches like Bete Gologotha and Abba Libanos at Lalibela. The cell has original, 1.12 meter wide door. To the right and left of the entrance there are two crosses and two other reliefs carved on rock. The relief at the left side shows evidence of destroyed engraving. The similarity of the two crosses and similarity of the niche at the right and surviving part of the left one, gives an impression that the other feature probably resembles the right one. The carved feature to the right of the entrance has striking similarity with reliefs in the church of Gologotha at Lalibela.
entrance to Kenkenit Mikael
right side of the entrance
front of Kenkenit Mikael
Plan by Monti Della Corte 1940
The church is detached from the main rock in all sides. But it is difficult to differentiate the parts left unfinished by the excavators from parts crumbled later (because of natural and manmade factors) when it comes to parts constitute the monolithic church. It seems that galleries to the north and southern sides of the church were formed in closed space. It is possible that these parts were attached to the main church at the top. But it is difficult to make an exact statement on this because the church is severely degraded. For instance it is difficult to tell the exact point of extension of the existing “outer walls” in the northern and southern façades. The eastern façade forms the only wall of the main building. The church is roughly 10.8 meter long and 8.5 wide and 4 meters high, from inside.
The windows are formed in arches. There are no original window fillings. Rubbles and wood are filled into the arched windows in an attempt to protect the church from looting and other causes of destruction.
Highly deteriorated frame structures are evident on the doors. The door on the northern façade has monkey heads. These features are well preserved on the doors of the northern and western facades.
There are imitated wall structures in the way executed elsewhere on walls of rock hewn churches of Lalibela. The walls of Bete Amanuel at Lalibela are possible imitation of wall of built up churches.