Debre Abay

Established in 1327 EC, Debre Abay has been serving as a center of excellence for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Notable Ethiopian scholars and Kings such as Emperor Zara Yaqob and Gedamu Woldegiorgis were educated there.

Debre Abay is a monastery of the Tigrai Orthodox Church located at the edge of Tekeze canyon. The monastery dates from the 14th century, and has important connections with Ethiopian history: Emperor Zara Yaqob was educated there until his 14th year old, the Battle of Debre Abay was fought nearby on 14 February 1831, and notable Ethiopian scholars, such as Gedamu Woldegiorgis, continued to be educated there well into the early to mid-1900s.


When Paul B. Henze visited the monastery in 2001, he described it as flourishing and self-sufficient, inhabited by 80 monks, 12 nuns, and “30-odd” priests.

According to Henze, the Memhir or abbot told him that Debre Abay was founded in 1327 EC (or AD 1334/1335) by Saint Samuel of Waldeba; another personage associated with the monastery was Abba Samuel of Qoyetsa.

Mansfield Parkyns, traveling between Adwa and Sudan, stopped at Debre Abay in early July 1845. He found settlement “built in a deep hollow or chasm, and so nearly concealed, that, when approaching it from some directions, you would scarcely imagine yourself to be near habitations, seeing nothing but a wide tract of table-land before you.

The church of the monastery was bombed by the Italians during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War on 17 December 1935. It was rebuilt in the 1950s with donations from Emperor Haileselassie.

Debre Abay is the only monastery in Tigrai, Eritrea and Ethiopia where a true witnessing of priest-hood service permission is given.

Debre Abay is a village by itself. It’s a complex dwelling with lots of compounds with cultural houses inside where highly specialized religious scholars live in.

The monastery brews a holy drink that has religious and historic connections to the founding father Abune Samuel Ze Qoyetsa. The way its brewed makes it special and is unique to the monastery.

As part of the Monastery, there is a monastery building, the oldest Tigrai orthodox school, holy water, horticulture, a ranch, bee farm, scattered residences, the dense jungle, and every beauty nature can offer.

Debre Abay is probably the highest diversified flora in the region. You will remember the sounds of birds, the sound of the purely natural water flowing through the valleys, the sound of the dense trees against the wind, and the sounds of religious students studying in the jungle, even when you are far away back home.