Lalibela one of the holiest cities in Ethiopia, known for its vast monuments of ancient and post-medieval civilization, carved within the earth from “living rock.” Lalibela plays a significant part in the history of rock-cut architecture.
Ethiopia, with a population of almost exclusively Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, was one of the most primitive nations to embrace Christianity.
Ethiopia’s historical origins are thought to date back to the time of the Apostles. The churches are considered to date back from roughly seventh to the thirteenth century.
Churches and monasteries of Ethiopia’s heritage are hewn out of the faces of the cliffs and built on hilltops.
Rock-cut architecture is sculptured by excavating solid rock designed and made by man from beginning to end. Generally, rock-cut structures are carved out by starting at the roof and working downward to prevent stones from falling on the workers below.
Church of Saint George, Bete Giyorgis, Lalibela
The Church of Saint George, named Roha (Warwar) initially, is one of the eleven rock-hewn monolithic churches in Lalibela. The shape is a Greek cross with each arm of identical length and a motif engraved with a triple Greek cross on the roof.
Mikael Milhaizenghi Church
The Mikael Milhaizenghi Church has a recessed ceiling as you enter the left-hand doorway, which the most striking feature of this church. The dome is a circular shallow relief carved from the sandstone rock.
Debre Damo Monastery
Debre Damo is one of the most important churches of Christianity. This tiny modern church is built in front of the cave where one of the nine saints Aragawi who brought Christianity to Ethiopia, is said to have disappeared.
Apparently, Saints were often associated with disappearances rather than death. Skeletal remains of monks can be seen protruding from the shrouds in the alcoves in the cave walls.
Monastery Neakuto Leab – Na’akueto La’ab
Na’akueto La’ab monastery positioned in a cave below a massive rock ledge. The large shaped rocks in the form of bowls collect water that drips from the ledge, which the priests accumulate as holy water and use to sprinkle blessings on you.
Abuna Yemata Guh Monastery
A steep and hazardous ascent reaches the entrance with hand and footholds in the rock, as well as a strenuous ascent up a vertical rock wall.