The monastery is located at about 50km far from Bahir Dar on the eastern shore of Lake Tana and on a remarkably beautiful setting protected by the fence of rocky hill.
Tana Kirkos monastery had been used as one of the five sacred places of ancient Judaic worshiping places where sacrificial stones are still found. These places include Aksum Tsion Mayam in Tigray, Tedbabe Maryam in Wollo, Bibira Maryam in southern Ethiopia, Mertula Maryam in East Gojjam and Tana Qirqos of the Lake Tana in West Gojjam. In the Tana Qirqos monastery the Ark of the Covenant had been kept for 800 years before it was taken to Axum (the ancient Ethiopian capital) in the 4th century AD. According to the church history, this place had used as the place of scarification of Orit (worship in pre-Christian era) since 982 BC. Later on St. Mary led Abreha we Atsbeha to Lake Tana to transfer the Ark of the Covenant to Aksum where still it is kept in honorary.
The church history narrates the church was built by Abreha we Atsbeha, kings of Aksum. The reconstruction of the church had been undertaken by different Ethiopian kings. The present building probably dates back to the first quarter of the 19th c, reconstructed by the order of Ras Gugsa, the ruler of Begemdir province. The building is rectangular in plan and similar to the shape of Daga Estiphanos church. In 18th c the church had one of the richest libraries of the region and used as education center (remove).
The founder of the Ethiopian church song, St. Yared has written his first book of song called Digua in this monastery. The museum of the monastery has collections of several valuable and unique treasures, which inspire visitors (remove). The collections of the museum include goods used for scarification in pre-Christian era and thought to be brought from Jerusalem. These include the flat metal plate(Gumar), used to collect the blood of sacrificial animals; a metal overcoat worn by the pre-Christian priests(ye Orit Kahinat) when slaughtering animals for sacrifice in prayer; a metal stick with several hooks used to the outflow of the sacrificial animals’ blood, incense burner, lamp stands. The museum also displays beds that belong to king G/Meskel and king Sertse-Dingil, crowns and robes of different kings, so many old manuscripts, St. Yared’s book (the original Digua written by Yared himself). Another heritage that shows the masterpiece of the people in early time is a magnificently painted 98cm by 480cm folding book. This parchment has 30 pages hat feature the images of St. Mary, Angels, Apostles, Prophets, and other saints of the church. The tomb of Zaduk (the son of Azarias) who brought the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem to Ethiopia, and foot print of St. Mary are also found, in this monastery. Generally, this monastery is very mysterious that attracts many researchers because it has so many heritages and historical records of the country which are not mentioned in this short brief of the monastery. Visitors who want to learn more about Ethiopian history and tradition of the church should not miss visiting this monastery.
The annual celebration of the church is held on Tir 15 (January 23 or 24). The monastery boasts over 155 affiliated monks and hermits. Women are not allowed to visit the Tana Qirqos church particularly.