Built 220 years ago, in the 1780s, by Ras Welde Selassie, Selassie Cheleqot church is still an active orthodox church. With a round shape, it has 3 main doors and 9 beautifully decorated windows. All the doors and windows are made of artistically shaped large local woods. In fact, the name CHELEQOT was drived from this fact.
When Ras Wolde Selassie came for the innauguration of the church, he saw the beautiful wooden blocks where the church was made from. He asked “what are these woods?” The builders replied, “ቆት” (Qot), a name of a strong and thick wood still common in the area. Ras Wolde Selassie was amazed and said “ጨለ ቆት” meaning “Nice Qot” and hence the name “Cheleqot”(ጨለቆት).
The church has different gates for male and female. Inside the church, there are toms of famous people. Tiruwork Wube, The wife of King Tewodros II, and the mother of Prince Alemayehu Tewodros; Ras Wolde Selassie, the ruler of Enderta; His Holiness Abune Merha Christos, the long time Abun of Tigrai and many other notable people have been buried here. Each tomb has separate rooms built and can be seen inside the compound of the church.
Selassie Chelekot church has an amazing wall painting and window art. A writer at “Culture and Tradition” writes the following about the beautiful windows at Cheleqot.
The identity of the artisan who made these windows could not be established with any reasonable degree of certainty. There are suspicions based upon the writing on the beautiful golden cross, is that it might be Awesteli the Egyptian who is responsible for making the golden cross or could it be Indian artisans, also known from Gondar. Much of the style of painting resembles that of Gondar from where Wolde Selassie brought 24 scholars. The church is undergoing some drastic renovations these days and people eager to renovate the church might damage the original paintings if the task is left to less qualified people. Many paintings are already damaged during an earlier renovation work of the roof. Bats have also damaged some. Some volunteer have installed mosquito net on windows and other openings to block the entrance of bats, which seems to have worked well, they say.
Alternatively, it could have been some artisan from the far east brought by one or another warlord or an artisan accompanying one of the Abuns from Alexandria. These windows are works of art of the highest caliber. No where in Ethiopia do we find such beautiful handicraft even remotely comparable to this.
The church has many precious gifts from different kings and notable people. They have built a separate building to serve as a museum and display the church’s precious treasures for tourists.