Lalibela, Ethiopia. Bet Giyorgis. November, 2011. RIP Ray Bradbury.
November 8, 2011. Lalibela, Ethiopia. Pilgrim praying at Bet Maryam. The church, dedicated to the Virgin, who’s particularly venerated in Ethiopia, is the most popular church among pilgrims. Some believe it may have been the first church built by Lalibela.
November 8, 2011. Lalibela, Ethiopia. Bet Medhane Alem (Savior of the World). Said to be the largest rock-hewn church in the world, it measures 33.5m by 23.5m and is over 11.5m high.
“By vast Expence and hideous pain, The Rock a Church became” (Hiob Ludolf, 1684).
Lalibela - a city of rock-hewn churches, built in the 12th century, to become the “New Jerusalem”. The city was called Roha and King Lalibela came into power after his brother abdicated the throne. Legend says that he went into exile to Jerusalem and vowed that when he returned he would create a New Jerusalem for his people since they were too impoverished and the pilgrimage was too difficult for them to make. Another legend states that he was poisoned by his brother and went into a coma, where God showed him a vision of the churches and commanded him to build them. There is a lot of uncertainty as to how long it took to create the churches. I was told 24 years for all 11 churches with a good deal of divine intervention (the men lovingly toiled away during the day, while angels intervened at night, doing twice the work as the men).
There are two basic types of churches in Lalibela:
1. Rock-hewn cave churches, which are cut inwards from a more or less vertical cliff face sometimes using and widening an existing natural cave.
2. Rock-hewn monolithic churches, which imitate a built- up structure but are cut in one piece from the rock and separated from it all round by a trench. Nowhere else in the world are constructions of this particular kind found.
Lalibela’s name means, “The bee recognizes its sovereignty”. Bees have special significance in Lalibela as a result and they make a special honey-wine called Tej - surprisingly bitter-sweet to taste.