Professor Reed's Travel Notes - Great Temple of YeHa
Friday July 6th, 2012
On my return from Debre Damo monastery to Aksum, I was in for a very big surprise--we stopped at the site of the Great Temple of YeHa. 'YeHa' sounds like a holler at the Calgary Stampede, but no...it is the very well preserved remains of a pagan temple from the 8th or 9th century BCE. You got it--that's close to 3,000 years old!
The amazing fact is that it is still standing, and in such good condition--no heap of rubble. The stones for the wall have stayed in place without mortar of any kind or interlocking stone...just carefully crafted stones laid upon each other, with walls perfectly aligned. And we said ancient peoples were 'primitive.' Most of us dumped that notion when we saw the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, built about 3,000 BCE. It's amazing what you can do with a little ingenuity and a lot of slaves...so goes the argument for keeping slavery!
When Christianity came into this region around the 5th century, everyone converted. When they began to look for worship space, why change the address? They turned the local temple into a church...even big enough to qualify as a mega-temple.
A small museum houses artifacts, some unearthed through excavations by German archaeologists in particular. I was greeted and guided by a resident monk.
The monk chanting for me from the liturgy (I've got a great video clip of his chanting).
These next photos are selected for those of you who consider yourselves to be pious, people of deep prayer, masters of self-denial, high achievers in spiritual suffering. Well, here's your match, the story of a real high achiever--an early monk who served this place of worship for most of his life. In Pic 4 a young man who accompanied us around the village demonstrates how he prayed, on his favourite prayer rock (facing east) by the temple wall. Pic 5 shows how long he prayed...enough to wear two smooth holes in this very hard granite stone over his lifetime! That would silence most modern contenders for a disciplined prayer life.
A photo of me with the matriarch of the village and a friend or family member: she is 102 years old, owned most of the local property, and blind; when we were introduced, she grabbed my hands as firmly as a used car salesman, and gave me the most touching and moving blessing I have ever received (blessing on me for good health and love of God, for my wife and children, and that my children will always honour and respect me).