Historical Churches of Ethiopia Challenge

Joined: June 20th, 2014, 12:14 pm

August 1st, 2017, 11:07 am #41

Hi Nancy - I know I'm kind of "late to the party", but I checked the remaining choices & would like to do this challenge for the Happy Campers: Biete Lehem (House of Holy Bread).
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Joined: June 17th, 2014, 3:52 pm

August 1st, 2017, 12:12 pm #42

All yours -- I'll get you signed up. : )
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Joined: June 22nd, 2014, 6:47 am

August 2nd, 2017, 10:30 am #43

Linky - Spice Girls

Biete Amanuel (House of Emmanuel), possibly the former royal chapel

Biete Amanuel is an underground Orthodox monolith, rock-built church in Lalibela, Ethiopia.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. 
Built in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia, about 400 miles from Addis Ababa, 11 medieval monolithic churches were carved out of rock.   Lalibela flourished after the decline of the Aksum Empire. Ethiopian tradition ascribes the whole complex’s construction to the reign of King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela (r. ca. 1181–1221), who set out to construct in the 12th century a ‘New Jerusalem’, after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the holy Land. According to the king’s hagiography (gadl), Lalibela carved the churches over a period of twenty-four years with the assistance of angels.


The churches were not constructed in a traditional way but rather were hewn from the living rock of monolithic blocks. These blocks were further chiselled out, forming doors, windows, columns, various floors, roofs etc. This gigantic work was further completed with an extensive system of drainage ditches, trenches and ceremonial passages, some with openings to hermit caves and catacombs.

The church I chose, Biete Amanuel, was built on the south side of the River Jordan. Rising from a stepped podium, the church of Biete Amanuel best exemplifies the sculpted version of Aksumite architecture. All four facades are carved to resemble the empire’s favored building technique of layering long horizontal beams with mortar and stones, which created a rhythmic alternation of recessed and projecting surfaces. The upper and lower windows and doors appear to be framed by the wooden beam heads typical of Aksumite construction, while the central windows mimic the form of the monumental Aksumite stelae.

Free-standing and monolithic, Bet Amanuel is Lalibela’s most finely carved church. Some have suggested it was the royal family’s private chapel. It perfectly replicates the style of Aksumite buildings, with its projecting and recessed walls mimicking alternating layers of wood and stone. The most striking feature of the interior is the double Aksumite frieze atop the nave.

 


In modern times, structural problems have been identified in Biet Amanuel where an imminent risk of collapse is possible. 

For centuries, the Church and State have been jointly responsible for the holy site of Lalibela. Home to a large community of priests and monks, it is a living site which draws many pilgrims to celebrate the great feasts of the Ethiopian Christian calendar. 

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/18/video
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Joined: June 17th, 2014, 3:52 pm

August 2nd, 2017, 10:52 am #44

Hi Linky,

What a beautiful story and a very beautiful Church.  The stonework is magnificent and truly amazing as they used hand tools mostly.  I love that they attribute help in building this Church from the angels.  My hope is that this wonderful Church can be made structurally sound so we don't lose it's beauty and creative style.

Thanks so much for participating in this challenge.
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Joined: September 7th, 2014, 2:04 pm

August 3rd, 2017, 2:51 pm #45




For the Happy Campers, I’ve researched and explored the history of St George Rock Hewn Church and it’s surrounding area in Ethiopia. Please excuse me for digressing into the history of the entire area, but I found it totally fascinating! And I hope you do, too.
   
  

OVERVIEW

Hewn out of solid rock, the extraordinary church of St. George (Bete Giyorgis), Ethiopia, represents one of the wonders of the medieval world and one of the world’s most astounding sacred sites.  It is located near town of Lalibela, which is situated roughly 400 miles north of the country’s capital, Addis Ababa. This town contains an amazing collection of monolithic, rock-cut churches. Eleven in total, these buildings were each carved entirely out of a single block of tuff volcanic rock (a soft reddish stone) with its roof at ground level and are a testament to the skills of Ethiopia’s medieval stone masons.


Lalibela is a dusty rural town nestled into rolling countryside, and only recently received electricity. It has few motorized vehicles, no gas stations and no paved streets. It is isolated from the modern world, and the town goes about its business much as it has for hundreds of years. Lalibela has a population of about 10,000 people, of which over 1,000 are priests. Religious ritual is central to the life of the town, with regular processions, extensive fasts, and crowds of singing and dancing priests. This, combined with its extraordinary religious architecture and simplicity of life, gives the city of Lalibela a timeless, almost biblical atmosphere.

The town of Lalibela was originally known as Roha, but was renamed after King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, who commissioned these extraordinary churches in the 12[sup]th[/sup] century. King Lalibela was one of the last kings of the Zagwe dynasty, which had seized the Ethiopian throne around 1000 AD. When his rivals began to increase in power, Lalibela sought the support of the powerful Ethiopian Orthodox Church by building the churches in this small town.
King Lalibela:


King Lalibela's goal was to create a New Jerusalem for those who could not make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land because the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem made travel to the Holy Land dangerous. According to some reports, he had been to the Holy Land himself and was inspired by what he saw. But the king made no attempt to copy the churches of the Holy Land; in fact, Lalibela's sacred architecture could not be more unique.

As mentioned previously, the most extraordinary thing about the churches of Lalibela is that they were not constructed — they were excavated. Each church was created by first carving out a wide trench on all four sides of the rock, then chiseling out the interior. The largest church is 40 feet high, and the labor required to complete such a painstaking task with only hammers and chisels is astounding.

One folk tale says that men worked all day to build the churches, and that angels would relieve them at night and get twice as much work done.  One of the churches, Bet Maryam, contains a stone pillar on which King Lalibela wrote the secrets of the buildings' construction. It is covered with old cloths and only the priests can look at it.
King Lalibela's project for gaining the church's favor and support had two unexpected results: the creation of a holy place of unparalleled beauty and the king's conversion to Christianity. After laboring for 20 years, he abdicated his throne to become a hermit, living in a cave and eating only roots and vegetables. To this day, Ethiopian Christians regard King Lalibela as one of their greatest saints.

The churches have been in continuous use since they were built in the 12th century. The first Europeans to see these extraordinary holy sites were Portuguese explorers in the 1520s. One of these explorers, Portuguese priest Francisco Álvares (1465–1540)  noted in his journal that the sights were so fantastic, he expected readers would accuse him of lying.  He says:  “I weary of writing more about these buildings, because it seems to me that I shall not be believed if I write more...I swear by God, in Whose power I am, that all I have written is the truth.
 
The roofs of the Lalibela churches are level with the ground and are reached by stairs descending into narrow trenches. A complex and extensive system of drainage ditches, tunnels and subterranean passageways connects the underground structures. The rock-cut churches are simply but beautifully carved with such features as fragile-looking windows, moldings of various shapes and sizes, different forms of crosses, swastikas (an Eastern religious motif) and even Islamic traceries. Several churches also have wall paintings.

BETE GIYORGIS ITSELF
There are 11 rock-cut churches at Lalibela, the most spectacular of which is Bete Giyorgis (St. George's). The church of St. George stands proud in an 80x80 foot wide pit. The construction of the church involved excavating a free-standing block of stone out of the bed-rock and then removing all the waste material from around it. The stone masons then carefully chiseled away the church outline, shaping both the exterior and interior of the building as they went. They fashioned a simple yet exceptionally beautiful cruciform structure approximately 40 feet high. What makes this work even more extraordinary is that the construction must have produced huge amounts of broken rock – yet there is no evidence of the material being dumped anywhere in the country.



The church contains three west-facing doorways, nine ‘blind’ lower level windows that don’t open all the way to the interior, and twelve upper-row windows. Each of the windows is adorned by a cross and floral motif carved in relief above its opening, while the roof of the structure contains a sequence of Greek crosses in relief, one inside the other. The church grounds are accessed via a descending trench and tunnel, which allow access to a sunken courtyard surrounding the building. This contains a small baptismal pool, while its vertical walls have a number of caves that are used as basic housing for priests and as burial tombs. Of all the churches at Lalibela, Bete Giyorgis is the best preserved.


Located on the western side of the cluster of churches, it is cut 40 feet down and its roof forms the shape of a Greek cross. As the last church constructed, it is a magnificent culmination of King Lalibela's plans to build a New Jerusalem, with its perfect dimensions and geometrical precision.  Of the eleven, it is the most finely executed and the best preserved church.  Unlike some of the other churches, St. George's is plain inside. A curtain shields the Holy of Holies. In the shadows of one of the arms of the cruciform church is its tabot, or copy of the Ark of the Covenant.


Getting down and into the churches of Lalibela requires some dexterity. The steps can be steep, rocky and rough. Self-appointed helpers help you on the steps as well as take care of your shoes, which you have to remove when you enter the churches. When you come out, you will find your shoes neatly lined up with the others.

Bete Giyorgis is still a place of pilgrimage for members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.   In Ethiopia, where nearly two-thirds of the population is Christian, Lalibela has become almost important as the real Holy Land. 'It is one of the very important places for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church people,' local guide and Lalibela-native Fikru Woldegiorgis told the Nigerian Tribune. 'There is a belief that Lalibela pilgrims share the same blessing as pilgrims to Jerusalem,' he explains. 'They have to come at least once in a lifetime.'


As a group, the Rock-Hewn Churches were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, known as  “Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela“.  In 2008, UNESCO decided to erect protective coverings to shield four of the churches from the elements. The shelters may be unsightly, but experts say they are critical to preserving the integrity of the churches. And just as amazing as the fact that these structures are still standing, is that they are still used to hold church services every day.

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Joined: June 17th, 2014, 3:52 pm

August 3rd, 2017, 3:11 pm #46

Hi Lori,

I'm so happy that you enjoyed researching and learning about these rock-hewn Churches; especially St. George's Church.  I find it to be one of my favorites as I love the way that the top of the Church has a cross on it.  I can definitely see why people feel they have to make a pilgrimage here to see these fascinating Churches at least once in their lifetime.  I especially enjoyed hearing about the curtain which separates the Biblical version of the Holy of Holies and that they have a replica of the ark of the covenant there as well.  Whether it is plain inside or not -- it makes up for it with it's beautiful design and I still find it amazing that these Churches were built with a hammer and chisel.

I read where the angels, referred to in the story, may very well have been the Knights Temlar who worked at night to avoid the heat of the day.

Thanks so much for participating in this challenge.
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Joined: June 17th, 2014, 3:52 pm

August 3rd, 2017, 3:12 pm #47

current to here.
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Joined: July 3rd, 2014, 2:03 pm

August 5th, 2017, 6:05 pm #48

This is a repost. You already gave me credit, but I think I have the photo problem fixed and I thought you might enjoy the pictures. Watch the videos, too! 

Sheepdoc for Smokin' Chefs - Historical Churches of Ethiopia Challenge


[url=http://:]: [/url]






The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia are a major site for pilgrimage of members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Lalibela has been considered the New Jerusalem and has been a pilgrimage site for centuries as the royal family was considered to be descended from Solomon. The churches are located in northern Ethiopia, carved into a rocky massif at the base of Mount Abuna Yosef. The river Jordan divides two groups of churches.



Biete Golgotha Mikael, Biete Maryam, Biete Denagel, Biete Maskal, and Biete Medhani Alem are in the northern group and Biete Lehem, Biete Gabriel Rafael, Biete Abba Libanos, Biete Amanuel, and Biete Qeddus Mercoreus are in the southern group. A single church, Biete Ghiorgis is to the west. A system of pathways consisting of trenches and tunnels link the churches, catacombs, tombs, and storerooms.A hydraulic system is used to fill the three pools at Biete Maryam.  This also makes the pilgrims flow through as a group, descending into the pit and ascending into the churches together. 

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The churches are hewn from volcanic basalt. They were carved top down using axes and other blades.  The churches are square or rectangular with cruciform or basilical forms. According to custom, there are doors at the west, north, and southern sides. Steep steps lead the worshipers upward into the churches. 
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Steleform and Aksumite windows and doors date these churches to the Aksumite revival period in northern Ethiopia, in the tenth century. 
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Connected to the northern group of churches by a tunnel is a large courtyard containing three churches. The first, Biete Maryam, dedicated to the Virgin, is small, yet designed and decorated to an exceptionally high standard. Biete Mariam retains vividly colored geometric and biblical scenes painted on shallowly carved walls, ceilings, and columns. 
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It’s also the only church with porches extending off it. 
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This is the most popular church among pilgrims. Some believe it may have been the first built in Lalibela. Some of the other churches are older buildings but they were built for other purposes and converted. 
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On its eastern wall you’ll see two sets of three windows. The upper set is thought to represent the Holy Trinity, while the lower three, set below a small cross-shaped window, are believed to represent the crucifixion of Jesus and the two sinners. The lower right window has a small opening above it, a signal that this sinner was accepted to heaven after repenting his sins and asking for Jesus’ help. The lower left window, which represents the criminal who went to hell, has the small opening below it.

Above the western porch and squeezed beneath the roof is a rare and beautifully carved bas-relief of St George fighting the dragon.

Inside, the ceilings and upper walls are painted with very early frescoes, and the columns, capital and arches are covered in beautifully carved details, including a curious two-headed eagle and two fighting bulls, one white, one black. One of its frescoes is of the Star of David; close by is another depicting the flight by Mary, Joseph and Jesus into Egypt. At the eastern end of the tall nave, surrounded by seven galleries, is a holy column with inscriptions in Ge’ez, Hebrew and Greek kept permanently wrapped in cloth.
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The Ethiopian Christmas celebration on January 7 Is a major day for pilgrims and tourists to visit. Lalibela has 20,000 residents and 50,000 come for Christmas. To begin the Christmas Mass, priests chant and rattle sistras, palm-size instruments from Old Testament times. The celebration continues through the night.

At sunrise, the priests climb the rocky steps to the rim of the pit overlooking the church. They wear white turbans, carried golden scarves and had red sashes stitched into the hems of their white robes. To the beat of large drums the priests sway in unison, rattling their sistras, then crouching in a wavy line to the beat and rising again—King David's dance, the last of the Christmas ceremonies.

More priests form a tight circle in the courtyard below and chant a hymn to the priests above, who respond in kind. The courtyard priests represent the world's people, and the priests high above represent the angels. Their singing is a symbol of the unity between heaven and earth. 

[url=http://:]: [/url]



https://threeovens.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/smokin-chefs.jpg
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Joined: June 20th, 2014, 12:14 pm

August 6th, 2017, 6:13 am #49






When I originally signed up for this challenge on behalf of the Happy Campers a few days ago, I told Nancy I knew I was “late-to-the-party” & there were just 3 choices left to pick from. While there was a lot of historical info on the churches, I was only able to find 2 pics, but just 1 of ideal size. So I’ve relied more on historical info & hope that you will find some of what I have to say is new & of interest.

In a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia, 11 medieval monolithic churches were carved out of rock. Their construction is attributed to King Lalibela who (in the twelfth century) set out to construct a “New Jerusalem”, after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the holy places of Jerusalem & Bethlehem. As such, they have had considerable influence on Ethiopian Christianity. Of particular interest in more recent years is the fact that Christians from the Philippines are making pilgrimages to the churches in Lalibela as a destination alternative to Jerusalem. This stems from their desire to experience a “Jerusalem” w/o having to experience the unrest in Israel. This type of tourism started to pick up in 2016 when Ethiopian Airlines organized a special trip for Filipino journalists to visit Lalibela & other important sites in Ethiopia, so it would appear that King Lalibela’s vision was well-founded.

Scholars disagree about King Lalibela’s motivation for their construction. According to legend, God ordered King Lalibela to build 10 monolithic churches & gave him detailed instructions for their construction & even their colors. When his brother (Harbay) abdicated, the time had come for Lalibela to fulfill this command. Construction work began & is said to have been carried out w/remarkable speed when (also according to legend), angels joined the laborers by dy & at night did double the amt of work done by the men during the daylight hrs. There are many legends about King Lalibela, including 1 that he was poisoned by his brother & fell into a 3-day coma in which he was taken to Heaven & given a vision of rock-hewn cities. Another legend says that he went into exile in Jerusalem & vowed that when he returned he would create a New Jerusalem.

There are 2 main groups of churches & Biete Lehem (House of Holy Bread) is among those south of the river Jordan. The name of this particular church (Biete Lehem) is from the Hebrew word Bethlehem, which translates as House of the Holy Bread, & it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage at Lalibela, Ethiopia. The churches were not constructed in a traditional way, but rather were hewn from the living rock of monolithic blocks. These blocks were further chiseled out, forming doors, windows, columns, various floors & roofs, etc. This gigantic work was further completed w/an extensive system of drainage ditches, trenches & ceremonial passages, some w/openings to hermit caves & catacombs.

Near the churches, the village of Lalibela (at an altitude of 2,800 meters in the Ethiopian highlands) has 2-story round houses w/interior staircases & thatched roofs that were  constructed of local red stone & known as the Lasta Tukuls. These exceptional churches have been the focus of pilgrimage for Coptic Christians since the twelfth century. All the 11 churches represent a unique artistic achievement … In their execution, their size & variety plus the boldness of their form. Drainage ditches were filled up w/earth for several centuries (before being cleared in the twentieth century) & have been disrupted by seismic activity. This has resulted in a severe degradation of the monuments from water damage & most of them are now considered to be in a critical condition. Serious degradation of the paintings inside the churches has also occurred over the last 30 yrs. Sculptures have also been severely damaged, & their original features are hardly recognizable. All of this threatens the integrity of the property. Temporary light-weight shelters have been installed over some of the churches. Although they offer protection, there is definite visual impact on the facades.

The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela are still preserved in their natural settings. The original function of the site as a pilgrimage place still persists & provides evidence of the continuity of social practices. The intangible heritages associated w/church practices are still preserved. For centuries, the Church & State have been jointly responsible for the holy site of Lalibela. Home to a large community of priests & monks, it is a living site which draws many pilgrims to celebrate the great feasts of the Ethiopian Christian calendar. This active & energetic perspective is central to the management of the site, but there is need for stronger planning controls for the setting of the churches that will preserve them & address many of their issues.

Epilogue: As we are often prone to do because we are on opposite sides of the globe, Leggy Peggy & I chatted briefly this morning when I was sitting here at my PC & this challenge was mentioned. It turns out that she & her DH had both been to the very church that was my topic for this challenge. She shared 2 photos of the facade, a photo of their map & a photo of a sign on the facade. Sadly, neither of us are associated w/a photo-hosting site, so I was unable to surprise you w/her up close & personal pics. Now that would have been fun!  
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Joined: June 17th, 2014, 3:52 pm

August 6th, 2017, 11:21 am #50

Thanks Sheepdoc for the photos -- I'm glad you were able to fix the photo problem. : )
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Joined: June 17th, 2014, 3:52 pm

August 6th, 2017, 12:35 pm #51

Hi Twissis,

Thanks for participating in this challenge.  Hope you enjoyed learning about the historical churches of Ethiopia.
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Joined: June 20th, 2014, 1:10 pm

August 7th, 2017, 9:08 pm #52



Historic Churches of Ethiopia




Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela  was a member of the Zagwe Dynasty and ruled Ethiopia in the late 12th century to early 13th century. It is said that a swarm of bees surrounded him at his birth and his mother took that as a sign that he would one day reign as Emperor of Ethiopia. This is how he got his name. The current town of Lalibela was then known as Roha. It is said that in his youth Lalibela had seen Jerusalem and decided to build a "new" Jerusalem at Roha so that his people could go on a pilgrimage to Roha since the trek to the Holy Land was too dangerous and difficult after the capture of Jerusalem by the Muslims in 1187. Other stories include that God came to Lalibela with instructions on how to construct the buildings down to the most minute detail. Another legend says that Lalibela was poisoned by his brother and lapsed into a coma. During his brief stay in heaven, he was instructed to build the churches. Others relate that either the Knights Templar of Europe actually built the churches. Another story states that while men worked on the churches by day, by night Angels did twice as much work on them. However the churches were built there is no denying that they are nearly as important to Ethiopians as the actualy Holy Land because fully 2/3 of the population are Christian. The structures are also unique because they were built from the top down. Most structures are built from the ground up.


 

The names and places of the modern town mimic that of "old" Jerusalem. Each church was carved from a single piece of rock to symbolize spirituality and humility. There is a trench at the southernmost end of the Bet Maryam courtyard which connects it to the twin churches of Bet Golgotha and Bet Mikael. Bet Mikael (House of Michael) is also known as Bet Debre Sina (House of Mount Sinai).




The twin churches have the only cruciform pillars of the churches and there are relief-carved crosses throughout Bet Mikael. Bet Golgotha is known for containing some of the best early examples of Ethiopian Christian art. The collection includes life-sized depictions of the 12 apostles carved into the walls of the church. The Selassie Chapel is one of Lalibela's holiest sanctuaries and is off limits to women. It is also houses more fantastic art and is the reputed tomb of King Lalibela himself.


Yum! Yummy! Yummers!
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Joined: June 17th, 2014, 3:52 pm

August 8th, 2017, 6:19 am #53

Hi threeovens,

These churches truly have some of the best Christian art -- I would love seeing the carvings here and I know they would be absolutely amazing in person.  Just to walk along these structures would be awesome.  Guess I would never get to see the interior of the Selassie Chapel -- interesting to know that King Lalibela might be buried here.

Thanks for participating in this challenge.
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Joined: June 17th, 2014, 3:52 pm

August 8th, 2017, 6:21 am #54

current to here.
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Joined: June 19th, 2014, 7:38 am

August 8th, 2017, 5:14 pm #55




Enjoyed this challenge and wish we all could have made a trip to Ethiopia. Working on getting my photos in here the right way so hoping to have a nicer story to share..

Biete Qeddus Mercoreus

The small town of Lalibela in Ethiopia is home to one of the world's most astounding sacred sites of eleven rock-hewn churches each carved entirely out of a simgle block of granite. Originally known as Roha  the town was renamed after the 12th-century King Lalibela who commissioned these extraordinary churches. He was a member of the Zagwe dynasty which had seized the Ethiopian throne around 1000 AD. When rivals began to increase in power Lalibela sought the support of the powerful Ethiopian Orthodox Church by building the churches in this small town.





King Lalibela's goal was to create a New Jerusalem for those who could not make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to create a sacred city to rival powerful Axum with its Ark of the Covenant.  According to some reports he had been to the Holy Land himself and was inspired by what he saw. The king never made an attempt to copy the churches of the Holy Land in fact Lalibela's sacred architecture could not be more unique. After laboring for 20 years, he abdicated his throne to become a hermit, living in a cave and eating only roots and vegetables. To this day, Ethiopian Christians regard King Lalibela as one of their greatest saints.

The churches of Lalibela were not constructed, they were excavated. Each church was created by first carving out a wide trench on all four sides of the rock, then painstakingly chiseling out the interior. The largest church is 40 feet high, and the labor required to complete such a task with only hammers and chisels is astounding. Popular legend has it that angels came every night to pick up where the workmen had left off. 

One of the churches, Biete Qeddus Mercoreus, is connected via a series of long and narrow pitch black tunnels that begins at Biet Gabriel Rufael. This church may have started as something altogether different. The discovery of ankle shackles amond other objects has led scholars to believe it may have served as the towns prison or house of justice. Due to a large section of Biete Qeddus Mercoreus collapsing the interior is a fraction of its former size. The rock cut church is beautifully carved with such features as fragile looking windows, moldings of various shapes and sizes, different forms of crosses, swastikas that are an Eastern religious motif and islamic traceries. Dont miss the beautiful fresco which could date back to the 15th century and sometimes said to represent the Three Wise Men. Questions about the authenticy of that date arise because of the crosses they are holding and can not be correct for that time period. The 12 apostles are represented in a less attractive and later dated fresco. The Passion of the Christ painting on cotton fabric next to the frescoes probably dates from the 19th century. Formerly such paintings were plastered to the church walls with a mixture of straw, ox blood and mud. The 35 meter pitch black tunnel to the church does have a  self-appointed helper that helps you on the steps and takes care of your shoes which you remove when entering any of the churches. When exiting you will be in the Gabriel Rufael church which is said to represent hell and according to local tradition should be walked thru without and light so mind your head. Once outside your helper will have you shoes neatly lined up with all the other shoes.
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Joined: June 17th, 2014, 3:52 pm

August 8th, 2017, 5:27 pm #56

Hi Lauralie,

What an interesting church!  Amazing about finding shackles that that it might have been a prison previously.  I would love to see the frescos of the Wise Men, 12 Apostles and the Passion of Christ painting on fabric.  Good thing there is a help to get you through that dark tunnel.  Interesting info on the Gabriel Rufael representation.  Not sure I would want to exit there. : )

I'm glad you enjoyed researching this church and I know seeing them in person would be awesome. : )
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Joined: June 17th, 2014, 3:52 pm

August 8th, 2017, 5:28 pm #57

Nancys Pantry wrote: Hi Lauralie,

What an interesting church!  Amazing about finding shackles that that it might have been a prison previously.  I would love to see the frescos of the Wise Men, 12 Apostles and the Passion of Christ painting on fabric.  Good thing there is a help to get you through that dark tunnel.  Interesting info on the Gabriel Rufael representation.  Not sure I would want to exit there. : )

I'm glad you enjoyed researching this church and I know seeing them in person would be awesome. : )
Feel free to add your photos if you can get them uploaded here.  We would love to see them. : )
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Joined: June 19th, 2014, 7:38 am

August 8th, 2017, 5:45 pm #58

Nancys Pantry wrote: Hi Lauralie,

What an interesting church!  Amazing about finding shackles that that it might have been a prison previously.  I would love to see the frescos of the Wise Men, 12 Apostles and the Passion of Christ painting on fabric.  Good thing there is a help to get you through that dark tunnel.  Interesting info on the Gabriel Rufael representation.  Not sure I would want to exit there. : )

I'm glad you enjoyed researching this church and I know seeing them in person would be awesome. : )
oh gosh I agree! even the mention of hell would make me want to turn around and find another exit.  :)

the wise men, apostles and passion of christ would be amazing to see!
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Joined: June 19th, 2014, 7:38 am

August 8th, 2017, 5:46 pm #59

Nancys Pantry wrote:
Nancys Pantry wrote: Hi Lauralie,

What an interesting church!  Amazing about finding shackles that that it might have been a prison previously.  I would love to see the frescos of the Wise Men, 12 Apostles and the Passion of Christ painting on fabric.  Good thing there is a help to get you through that dark tunnel.  Interesting info on the Gabriel Rufael representation.  Not sure I would want to exit there. : )

I'm glad you enjoyed researching this church and I know seeing them in person would be awesome. : )
Feel free to add your photos if you can get them uploaded here.  We would love to see them. : )
I think Susie posted something about posting photos so going to see if I can find it again. Cross your fingers!   :)
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Joined: June 19th, 2014, 7:38 am

August 8th, 2017, 6:47 pm #60

Here is  a copy of my story with photos added.      :)


Biete Qeddus Mercoreus

The small town of Lalibela in Ethiopia is home to one of the world's most astounding sacred sites of eleven rock-hewn churches each carved entirely out of a simgle block of granite. Originally known as Roha  the town was renamed after the 12th-century King Lalibela who commissioned these extraordinary churches. He was a member of the Zagwe dynasty which had seized the Ethiopian throne around 1000 AD. When rivals began to increase in power Lalibela sought the support of the powerful Ethiopian Orthodox Church by building the churches in this small town.




King Lalibela's goal was to create a New Jerusalem for those who could not make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to create a sacred city to rival powerful Axum with its Ark of the Covenant.  According to some reports he had been to the Holy Land himself and was inspired by what he saw. The king never made an attempt to copy the churches of the Holy Land in fact Lalibela's sacred architecture could not be more unique. After laboring for 20 years, he abdicated his throne to become a hermit, living in a cave and eating only roots and vegetables. To this day, Ethiopian Christians regard King Lalibela as one of their greatest saints.




The churches of Lalibela were not constructed, they were excavated. Each church was created by first carving out a wide trench on all four sides of the rock, then painstakingly chiseling out the interior. The largest church is 40 feet high, and the labor required to complete such a task with only hammers and chisels is astounding. Popular legend has it that angels came every night to pick up where the workmen had left off. 



One of the churches, Biete Qeddus Mercoreus, is connected via a series of long and narrow pitch black tunnels that begins at Biet Gabriel Rufael. This church may have started as something altogether different. The discovery of ankle shackles amond other objects has led scholars to believe it may have served as the towns prison or house of justice. Due to a large section of Biete Qeddus Mercoreus collapsing the interior is a fraction of its former size. The rock cut church is beautifully carved with such features as fragile looking windows, moldings of various shapes and sizes, different forms of crosses, swastikas that are an Eastern religious motif and islamic traceries. Dont miss the beautiful fresco which could date back to the 15th century and sometimes said to represent the Three Wise Men. Questions about the authenticy of that date arise because of the crosses they are holding and can not be correct for that time period. The 12 apostles are represented in a less attractive and later dated fresco. The Passion of the Christ painting on cotton fabric next to the frescoes probably dates from the 19th century. Formerly such paintings were plastered to the church walls with a mixture of straw, ox blood and mud. The 35 meter pitch black tunnel to the church does have a  self-appointed helper that helps you on the steps and takes care of your shoes which you remove when entering any of the churches. When exiting you will be in the Gabriel Rufael church which is said to represent hell and according to local tradition should be walked thru without and light so mind your head. Once outside your helper will have you shoes neatly lined up with all the other shoes.

Last edited by Lauralie51 on August 8th, 2017, 7:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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