Debre Dimah is one of the oldest monasteries found in Eritrea. It is located in the southern part of Eritrea, It was founded in the year of 1340(G.C.) | 1348 AD by Abune Merqoriewos (Mercurius).
Abune Merqoriewos was born from holy parents, priest Thomas Simon and Selomie in the year of 1274 on Nehasse 29 in the Ge’ez Calendar. His parents used to respect and love Saint Merqoriewos the Egyptian martyr, so they used to commemorate his feast monthly. Since Abune Merqoriewos was born on the annual feast of St Merqoriewos the martyr, they named their child Merqoriwos and with his baptism name being Isiete Mariam (the Joy of Mary). Their siblings were Abune Absadi, Abune Matthiwos and Mekbibe Dingl (Star of the Virgin). Until they reached the age of education, they lived with their siblings in love and harmony.
After they joined a spiritual school, under their uncle Abune Paulos they learned 81 books of the old and new testament within 22 days. Then they went to the monastery of Abune Daniel where they served the old monks with humility and obedience. In this monastery they received deaconship from the Egyptian bishop Abune Petros and the rank of monk from Abune Ewostatiewos.
After staying as a hermit for a long time, they went around villages and cities teaching the gospel of the Lord and
doing miracles for 67 years. Abune Ewostatiwos then told them to go to Eritrea together, and the two fathers went together preaching the word of God to all the people and they journeyed on until they reached a place called “May Mi’ne”. However, people in this area were not following God’s commandments, and many evil things had shadowed the whole city. When the two fathers were sleeping, the people attempted to burn down the house but miraculously the two fathers came out from the fire untouched. The fathers then went to the place now called Debre Denagil, specifically the nuns' place, and in this monastery and dwelled as a hermit. Abune Ewostatiewos stayed for 7 years and Abune Merqoriewos for 4 years.
After finishing seven years in sabbatical, through a vision, God told Abune Ewostatiwos to go to the country called Armenia, and Abune
Mercurius, through the guidance of a bird, traveled to Gedam Debre Dimah. Upon reaching it, said, “This will be my everlasting place of rest.” Shortly after, our Lord Saviour Jesus Christ blessed the land, and Abune Mercurius went to Armenia to see Abune Ewostatiwos. And they preached the gospel as they crossed Sudan and Egypt. After visiting and taking blessings of the land of Jerusalem, they settled back in their monastery and stayed as a hermit in a place called “wiTuh”(ውጡሕ).
Friday on the 12th month of megabit (March) while they were praying, the devil came to eat them riding on a python. However, God was with them, He sent the archangel Michael and gave them a holy cross known to be “Zegal Mesqel,” and with this holy cross, they cast away
all demons and cut the python into several pieces. There was peace and rest to all people that lived in the surrounding. Until this day, the monks go to this place every year and hold liturgy. This cross is found in the monastery and does many miracles.
Now God told Abune Merqoriewos that the future monastery Debre Dimah would be their graveyard. So then in the year of 1340 G.C (1348 A.D), alongside 600 monks and 300 nuns, they constructed the monastery with the tradition and rights of monasticism.
When Abune Merqoriewos heard the departure of Abune Ewostatiewos in a dream, with the clouds as their means of transportation, they went to Armenia, since they were told they did not have enough money for the ship fare. After they came back, their younger brother Abune Absadi also departed, and they were saddened by the departure of both fathers.
Abune Ewostatiewos is known to be the father of all monks in Eritrea. Meaning they started the monastic life by forming monasteries in the country. During their departure to Armenia, they gave their handheld cross to Abune Absadi to be their shepherd. Soon after Abune Absadi’s departure, this seat and rank was given to Abune Merqoriewos. Until this day, all the monks that become the fathers of all monks in this monastery sit on this chair. This chair can now be found in the monastery of Debre Dimah.
When the day of departure of Abune Merqoriewos came close, they nominated Abba Gebre Hier to be the new leader. Now God made a covenant with Abune Merqoriewos saying, “anyone that commemorates your feast, calls upon your name, reads and translates your story, visits your monastery or gives offerings, I will have mercy on them.” On the 16th month of Tahsas (Ge’ez Calendar) at the age of 130 years they departed this world.
After his departure, the monks became rebellious and disobedient to their newly elected leader. And God severely punished them with a deadly disease. The newly elected leader took the remaining monks and formed their own monastery. The monastery that once had 900 monks became empty and no one was left. However, the children of Abune Merqoriewos come yearly and hold liturgy to commemorate the departure of their father. After the monastery was served in this way, Aba Tekle Eyesus leading other monks came to this monastery and restarted the monastic life. Since then this monastery has been giving spiritual service on a daily basis. Apart from being a monastery, this place is also a well known spiritual school. Higher studies of the church such as ziema, Bible translation and Qinie are taught here.
This monastery is also known by its unique white holy soil (tsebel). One time when Abune Philipos, Abune Merqoriewos and Abune Absadi were praying and making a special request to God. The three monks made their requests to God regarding their monastery. And Abune Merqoriewos said, “I want the monastery I rest upon to be white and my children’s heart to be white.” Now God heard each of their prayers and gave them what they requested. This is the reason why the soil in that monastery is white.
This holy soil heals people with different illnesses but mainly people suffering from cancer, possessed by demons and different kinds of cough (flu). The miraculous part of this holy soil, for 600 years the place where they dig this holy soil from has not decreased any level. In order to receive their blessings, be healed by the holy water and soil for the salvation of our flesh and soul, we should visit this monastery when it is possible. May the prayers and blessing of Abune Merqoriewos be with us.