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Abba Aregawi





Set on an imposing table mountain in a spectacular setting, this monastery was founded -or so the legends tell us -by a sixth-century saint. Abba Aregawi, or Za-Mikael Aregawi, was one of the famous Nine Saints who came to Ethiopia and spread Christianity in the countryside; indeed, he was the chief of them, the name Aregawi indicating 'the Elder'. The gadl or life story of Za-Mikael Aregawi relates -not altogether convincingly - that he was the son of Yeshaq, a Roman prince, and Princess 'Edna. He came with 'Edna to Ethiopia, and eventually settled at Eggala in Tigray on the mountain or amba of Damo. A large snake had dwelt there previously, which God instructed to act as a rope to help Za-Mikael up the cliff, with the Archangel Gabriel keeping guard. Later, when the fame of Za-Mikael had spread, King Gabra Masqal had a ramp built to help in the construction of a church on the amba, a ramp that was then removed so as to maintain the place's separation from the world. The church was the second to be built in Ethiopia after Aksum cathedral, and was richly endowed by the king. The place was called Debra Damo after the phrase dahmemo, 'take it off', uttered by the saint in reference to the ramp. The Debra Damo monastery was apparently also known as Debra Halleluya (Allelujah), according to the Gadla Tekla Haymanot and Gadla Abuna Aregawi, the name deriving from the triumphant shout of the saint when he arrived at the top. (S.M-H p 336)


Abba Aragawi



And on this day also is commemorated our holy Father

'ARAGÅWI, who is surnamed ZA-MIKÅEL. This holy man

became a guide to the servants of God on the road. And he

went up to the holy DABRA DÅMO holding the tail of a serpent,

and there he fought countless noble fights. And God graciously

made a covenant with him concerning the man who should call

upon his name, and the man who should celebrate his com-

memoration, And then he was hidden from the face of death

by the grace of God. He established among his children the

Rules for the Monastic Life, which he had learned in the house

of his father PACHOMIUS. Salutation to ZA-MIKÅEL who

was sumamed “ 'ARAGÅWI."