is an ancient world frozen in stone
Welcome to Lalibela
Lalibela (ላሊበላ) is history and mystery frozen in stone, its soul alive with the rites and awe of Christianity at its most ancient and unbending. No matter what you’ve heard about Lalibela, no matter how many pictures you’ve seen of its breathtaking rock-hewn churches, nothing can prepare you for the reality of seeing it for yourself. It’s not only a World Heritage site, but truly a world wonder. Spending a night vigil here during one of the big religious festivals, when white-robed pilgrims in their hundreds crowd the courtyards of the churches, is to witness Christianity in its most raw and powerful form.
first Group of churches
Resembling a massive Greek temple more than a traditional Ethiopian church, Bet Medhane Alem is impressive for its size and majesty. Said to be the
To the south of the Bet Maryam courtyard is the pleasingly primitive and grotto-like chapel of Bet Danaghel (House of the Virgins), said to have
This is the most mysterious complex in Lalibela, housing its holiest shrine, the Selassie Chapel, and – according to the whispers of the priests –
Second group of churches
Built around a cave in a vertical rock face, the roof is still connected to the original rock, while the tunnels separate the sides and back.
third group of churches
When you think of Lalibela, you’re thinking of Bet Giyorgis. Resting off on its own, St George’s Church is Lalibela’s masterpiece. Representing the apogee of the rock-hewn tradition, it’s the most visually perfect church of all, a 15m-high three-tiered plinth in the shape of a Greek cross – a perfectly proportioned shape that required no internal pillars. Due to its exceptional preservation, it also lacks the obtrusive roofing seen over the other churches. Inside, light filters in from the windows and illuminates the ceiling’s large crosses – beauty in simplicity. Peer over the curtain to see the maqdas’ beautiful dome. There are also two 800-year-old olive-wood boxes (one with opposing corkscrew keys) that locals believe were carved by King Lalibela himself and now hold the church’s treasures. Some of the cavities in the walls surrounding the church hold mummified corpses, and note the exquisite 16th-century canvas depicting St George slaying