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Friday, 26 September 2014 00:00


The town of Lalibela is a medieval settlement found in the Lasta area of the Wello- Zone and lies at the center of an extensive complex of churches hewn from rocks. Formerly the capital city of the Zagwe dynasty under the name of Roha, Lalibela was renamed in honor of king Lalibela. Legends has it that the king received his name when his mother saw him surrounded by a dense swarm of bees in his cradle and prophetically named him ‘Lalibela’ or the ‘bees recognize his sovereignty’ 

The town boasts of its 11 remarkable rock-hewn monolithic churches, According to legends the construction of amazing rock hewn churches had angelic help, believed to have been built by King Lalibela in the late 12th or early 13th Century. The structures are carved into the solid rock and are considered as the eighth wonders of the world. It was built in order to become the "new Ethiopian Jerusalem" and is characterized by its eleven churches carved out of the pink granite rock of the mountain The city of Lalibela is located at a height of 2,600 m above sea level and, together with Axum, is one The churches are divided into two groups according to their location with respect to the river Jordan and are connected to each other by means of narrow underground passages. Each church has its own unique architectural style; all are superbly sculpted and most are decorated with well-preserved paintings. The entire city may be considered a work of sculpture dedicated to the glory of God.

 Lalibela lies at an altitude of 2630m in the Lasta Mountains and its rock-hewn churches are among the greatest religious and historical sites in the Christian world. These churches are exceptional for different reasons. - They are not carved in to the rock, but freed entirely from it, they are so refined and of unique architecture and they are so many in such a small area. These towering edifices seem super human in scale, workmanship and concept. More than mere monuments, the churches in and around Lalibela are a living link with the past and testing to the power and spirit of an ancient Christian faith. Seeing all 11 monolithic Churches of Lalibela may take longer time, but they are well worth visitors’ effort.

There are six churches in group to the North of the river: 

Bete Medehane Alem: is the largest of the Lalibela church shaped in a Greek temple entirely surrounded by square shaped columns and a forest of twenty eight large rectangular columns supporting the roof.

Bete Golgotha: is simple in architecture it houses the most remarkable piece of early Christian art rarely duplicated elsewhere in the country.

Bete Maryam: stands in a spacious courtyard which is visited by numerous pilgrims on major church holiday. Legends tell us king Lalibela also favored this church above all and attained daily. 

Bete Meskel: this excavated chapel is a broad gallery with a row of four pillars dividing the space into aisles spanned by arcades.

Bete Denagel: is a little chapel associated with one of the most fascinating legends of king Lalibela. The chapel is dedicated to the honor of Maiden Martyred under Julian the Apostate, who ruled Rome in the mid- fourth century.

The group to the south of Yordanos River comprises of four churches:

Bete Amanuel: the elaborate exterior of this church is lauded by art historian and the church is possibly the finest of the group.

Bete Merkorios: is thought to have served a secular purpose possibly for justice. Partially collapsed the church was recently restored.

Bete Abba Libanos: is a structure that is good example of cave church separated from the surrounding hill on only three sides. The church has walls chiseled in Axumite style in a manner similar to Bete Amanuel.

Bete Gabriel – Rufael: it is thought that this was not originally intended to serve as a church primarily because of its unusual design.

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