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    Home : The 11 Monoletic Rock Hewn Churches, LALIBELA
Home
The 11 Monoletic Rock Hewn Churches of St.Lalibela
 
   1- Christianity in Ethiopia - in  English, French  & Arabic      >>>>          Visit Page, Christianity in Ethiopia - in  English, French  & Arabic
 
 
 
  2- Ethiopian Christian Art - Crosses, Icons, Paintings, Monasteries ...      >>>>          Visit Page, Ethiopian Christian Art - Crosses, Icons ...
 
 
 
  3- LALIBELA is Center of Pilgrimage
 
   Lalibela is a town in Semien Wollo Zone in Amhara Region, northern Ethiopia (Ethiopia Country) famous for monolithic rock-cut churches.

   Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and a Center of Pilgrimage. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. Ethiopia is one of the earliest nations to adopt Christianity in the first half of the fourth century, and its historical roots date to the time of the Apostles.

The layout and names of the major buildings in Lalibela are widely accepted, especially by local clergy, to be a symbolic representation of Jerusalem.This has led some experts to date the current church forms to the years following the capture of Jerusalem in 1187 by Muslim leader, Saladin.

Lalibela is located in the Semien Wollo Zone of the Amhara Region of Ethiopia Country, at roughly 2,500 meters above sea level.
The Rock-Hewn Churches were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978

 
Ethiopia Location Map
New Jerualem, Roha, Lalibela

Lalibella was the brother of the ruling king of those times.  When he was born he was completely surrounded by swarm of bees. His mother took this as a sign for his reign in future. His brother, Harbay, never liked his mother to be thinking that high of his brother. Somewhere in the mind, he was also afraid of losing the kingdom to his younger brother.
He tried to poison Lalibela, many times, but failed.  When Lalibela was poisoned by his brother he slept for almost 3 days. It is said that in those 3 days he was carried to heaven where he was given instruction for building the rock town. Meanwhile, his brother also had a vision where Lord Jesus paid a visit to him and said that he should abdicate the throne and hand it over to his brother.
Very after this vision, his brother abdicated the throne. When Lalibela became the king, he started the construction of the Rock Hewn Churches. Before this place was known by the name of Roha, but after these churches were built, it changed to Lalibela
King Lalibela oversaw the final extension of the church complex. This may have been to create an Ethiopian place of pilgrimage as an alternative to Jerusalem, which had been captured early in King Lalibela's reign by the Muslim Salah-ad-Din (known in the West as Saladin). This is reflected in local place names such as the "Church of Golgotha" (now containing the purported tomb of King Lalibela), "Yordanos" (Jordan) for the seasonal river that runs through the complex, and a nearby hill called "Debra Zeit" (meaning Mount of Olives).

 Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity, still today a place of pilmigrage and devotion.
In a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia, some 645 km from Addis Ababa, eleven medieval monolithic churches were carved out of rock. Their building is attributed to King Lalibela who set out to construct in the 12th century a ‘New Jerusalem’, after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the holy Land.

Carved out of volcanic tuff rock, the churches have been constructed in different styles: some stand in caves, while others are isolated blocks, like the Biete Giyorgis Church,  which is built in the shape of the cross. Several of the churches are decorated with interesting murals.  Many churches are connected by a system of drainage ditches, tunnels and subterranean passageways.

These churches are not museums. Members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church have to go on a pilgrimage at least once in their lives, getting the same blessing as going to Jerusalem in the Holy Land. Many faithful will walk for days or weeks, to get there, making their way along Lalibela's winding, paths often through the rugged mountains, to worship God. 

Frequently, there are funeral services in the morning that attract hundreds of people dressed in beautiful traditional white robes.
 

 

 
 Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela  - English Text  Ethiopia
 
 
 
  4- LALIBELA, Land of 11 monolithic Churches
 
In a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia, some 645 km from Addis Ababa, eleven medieval monolithic churches were carved out of rock. Their building is attributed to King Lalibela who set out to construct in the 12th century a ‘New Jerusalem’, after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the holy Land. Lalibela flourished after the decline of the Aksum Empire, (the capture of Jerusalem in 1187 by Muslim leader, Saladin).

There are assembled in 3 groups of churches - 11 churches:
  1. The Northern Group, the north of the river Jordan
  2. The Eastern Group, the south of the river Jordan
  3. The Western Group
 
Lalibela Map
 
 

 4.1- The Northern Group, north of river Jordan & Site Plan:

 
 
 
   2.1.0- the Site plan of this Group
 
   The Northern Group, 1st Group, 5 Churches
 
 
 
 

  
1- Trench.
   2- Tomb of Adamo.
   3- Biete Golgotha Mikael.
   4- Crypts.
   5- Passage to tomb block
.  6- Ancient subterranean passages.
   7- Entrance to courtyard of Biete Maryam
   8- Biete Meskel
   9- Biete Denagel (Ghel or Virgins)
   10- small pool.
   11- Courtyard of Biete Maryam.
   12- Biete Maryam.
   13- Courtyard of B. Medhane Alem & trenches.
   14- Biete Medhane Alem
.
 
 
Area View of Northern (First) Group of Churches
 
   The Northern Group, 5 Churches
  • Biete Medhane Alem (House of the Saviour of the World), home to the Lalibela Cross, believed to be the largest monolithic church in the world..
  • Biete Maryam (House of Miriam/House of Mary), possibly the oldest of the churches, and a replica of the Tombs of Adam and Christ.
  • Biete Golgotha Mikael (House of Golgotha Mikael), known for its arts and said to contain the tomb of King Lalibela)
  • Biete Meskel (House of the Cross)
  • Biete Denagel (House of Virgins)
 
 
 
   4.1.1- Biete Medhane Alem (House of the Saviour of the World)
Visit Page - "Biete Medhane Alem, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"           
   This church is in the northern part of the complex, and perhaps the oldest of the Lalibela churches. Bet Medhane Alem is the largest of all the Lalibela churches. Built like a Greek temple, it is unusual, being entirely sur¬rounded by square columns, with a further forest of twenty-eight massive rectangular columns supporting the roof inside. Polished by centuries of pressure from countless feet, the stone floor reflects shafts of light from apertures in the walls high above. In a corner, one can see three empty graves said to have been symbolically dug for biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
 
  more Detail,        Visit Page - "Biete Medhane Alem, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"  

 

   Plan of Page, "Biete Medhane Alem, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA":
 
  1. Biete Medhane Alem Description, (Plans,3D Models, Video, 3D Panorams Views)
  2. Outside of Biete Medhane Alem, (Gallery of Photos ..).
  3. Iutside of Biete Medhane Alem, (Gallery of Photos ..).
  4. The Tunnel between the Northern Group of 5 Churches
  2.1- The Northern Group, the north of the river Jordan:
 
     
    View in the Tunnel
 
 
 
   4.1.2- Biete Maryam (House of Miriam/House of Mary)
Visit Page - "Biete Maryam, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"           
  • This rectangular church is the most ornate of the Lalibela churches and is surrounded by a trapezoidal courtyard.
  • Debre-Sina (House of Mount Sinai)
    It has also a covered pillar like Biete Mariam
    There are many carefully carved pillars in the interior, which are cruciform in croos-section, with double capitals and decorated by varieties of crosses.
  more Detail,        Visit Page - "Biete Maryam, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"  
 
      Plan of Page, "Biete Maryam, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA":
 
  1. Biete Maryam Description, (Plans, 3D Models, Video, 3D Panorams Views)
  2. Outside of Biete Maryam, (Gallery of Photos ..).
  3. Inside of Biete Maryam, (Gallery of Photos ..).
  4. Tomb of Adamo

inside Biete Maryam

  2.1- The Northern Group, the north of the river Jordan:
 
       
Biete Maryam Picture of Pillar The Entrance Tomb of Adamo
 
 
 
   4.1.3- Biete Golgotha Mikael (House of Golgotha Mikael)
Visit Page - "Biete Golgotha Mikael , LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA          
  • The interconnected churches of Biete Golgotha and Biete Mika'el form the most mysterious complex in Lalibela. Its holiest shrine — the Selassie Chapel — is housed here, and, according to the whispers of the priests, perhaps even the tomb of King Lalibela himself. Some of the most beautiful processional crosses of Lalibela are here. One, a very rich and elaborate metal cross, black with age and decorated with inlaid circles, is said to have belonged to Lalibela. It contains larger than life bold-relief figures identified as Saint John, Saint Stephen, Saint George and Saint Kirkos, as well as the purported tomb of King Lalibela.
  • Biete-Debre Sina and Biete-Golgotha
    T
    hese are twin churches separated by a wall, east of which is Gologtha and to the west is Debre Sina.
    T
    he local people called them together “Biete Qidus Michael’ (House of St. Michael).
  more Detail,        Visit Page - "Biete Golgotha Mikael , LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA "  

 

    Plan of Page, "Biete Golgotha Mikael , LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"::
 
  1. Biete Golgotha Mikael  Description, (3D Models, Video, 3D Panorams Views)
  2. Outside of Biete Golgotha Mikael , (Gallery of Photos ...).
  3. Iutside of Biete Golgotha Mikael , (Gallery of Photos ...).
  Stone Carving of St Paul
   
   
 
 
 
   4.1.4- Biete Meskel (House of the Cross)  
Visit Page - "Biete Meskel, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"         
  • Biete Meskel underground monolith church carved into rock. It is located in Lalibela, Ethiopia. The edifice was built during the Kingdom of Axum
  • This is a grotto church, partially carved out of the rock, and whose façade is level with the north wall of the courtyard of Biete Maryam
  • This Carved in to the northern wall of Biete Mariam and has only one façade, facing south and decorated by ten blind arcades.
  •  According to priests of Lalibela, the ten blind arcades represent the Ten Commandments and the ten churches of Lalibel (the twin churches are considered as one).
  • Internally it is decorated with many relief crosses and houses the most ornamented cruciform chamber, which is accessible to visitors.
  more Detail,        Visit Page - "Biete Meskel, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"  

 

    Plan of Page, "Biete Meskel, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA":
 
  1. Biete Meskel Description, (3D Models, Video, 3D Panorams Views)
  2. Outside of Biete Meskel, (Gallery of Photos ...).
  Door
   
Ten arches symbolize the ten commandments, the smallest church  
 
 
 
   4.1.5- Biete Denagel (House of Virgins)
Visit Page - "Biete Denagel, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"         
  •  the Biete Denagel (The house of the Virgins) is a grotto church, partially carved out of the rock, and whose façade is level with the north wall of the courtyard of Bet Maryam.
  • .this church is without windows, roughly hewn and the least impressive of all 11 churches.
  more Detail,        Visit Page - "Biete Denagel, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA "  

 

    Plan of Page, "Biete Denagel, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA":
 
  1. Biete Denagel Description, (3D Models, Video, 3D Panorams Views)
  2. Outside of Biete Denagel, (Gallery Photos ...)
  3. Iutside of Biete Denagel, (Photos ...)
  3D Model, Biete Denagel
     
Outside Virgin Mary & Sons InSide
 
 
 
 

   4.2- The Eastern Group, South of river Jordan & Site Plan:

 
 
 
   4.2.0- the Site plan of this Group
 
   The Eastern Group, 2nd Group, 5 churches
 
 
 
 

  1- Biete Amanuel.
   2- Biete Qeddus Mercoreus.
   3- Biete Lehem.
   4- Biete Abba Libanos.
   5- Gallery.
   6- Deep pit with subterranean cistern and well..
   7- Biete Gabriel-Rufael.
  8- Original entrance to Biete Gabriel-Rufael
   9- Central trench.
   10- Great outer trench.
   11- Entrance path.
  12- Approach to " Path to Heaven".
   13- Road
.
 
   The Eastern Group, 5 Churches
  • Biete Amanuel (House of Emmanuel), possibly the former royal chapel,  9 rooms in the 3 stories church
  • Biete Qeddus Mercoreus (House of St. Mercoreos/House of St. Mark), which may be a former prison
  • Biete Abba Libanos (House of Abbot Libanos), (that King Lalibela's wife carved this church
  • Biete Gabriel-Rufael (House of the angels Gabriel, and Raphael) possibly a former royal palace, linked to a holy bakery.
  • Biete Lehem (House of Holy Bread).
 
 
 
   4.2.1- Biete Amanuel, (House of Emmanuel)
Visit Page - "Biete Amanuel, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"           
  • The Biete Amanuel (House of Emmanuel), possibly the former royal chapel,  9 rooms in the 3 stories church
  • It is the most beautifully carved church with a typical ancient Axumite architectural style i.e. projecting and recessing walls.
  • There are two rows of windows in the façade, of which the lower ones are cross-shaped and the upper ones square heads.
  • It is a three-story building in which the ground class is cross-shaped.
  • It has richly ornamented external walls by horizontal carvings
 
  more Detail,        Visit Page - "Biete Amanuel, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA "  

 

   Plan of Page, "Biete Amanuel, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA":
 
  1. Biete Amanuel Description, (Plans,3D Models, Video, 3D Panorams Views)
  2. Outside of Biete Amanuel, (Gallery of photos ..).
  3. Iutside of Biete Amanuel, (Gallery of Photos ..).
  2.1- The Northern Group, the north of the river Jordan:
 
     
  Inside, Decoration  
 
 
 

   4.2.2- Biete Qeddus Mercoreus (House of St. Mercoreos/House of St. Mark)   

Visit Page - "Biete Qeddus Mercoreus, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"           
  • Biete Qeddus Mercoreus (House of St. Mercoreos/House of St. Mark), which may be a former prison. This rectangular church is the most ornate of the Lalibela churches and is surrounded by a trapezoidal courtyard.
  • It is irregular in shape and damaged, but latter repaired. Unfortunately, the original feature and beauty is destroyed due to the inappropriate restoration. It was the second largest church, net to Biete Medhane Alem though before its destruction.
 
  more Detail,        Visit Page - "Biete Qeddus Mercoreus, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"  
 
      Plan of Page, "Biete Qeddus Mercoreus, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA":
 
  1. Biete Qeddus Mercoreus Description, (Plans, 3D Models, 3D Views)
  2. Outside of Biete Qeddus Mercoreus, (Gallery of Photos ..).
  3. Inside of Biete Qeddus Mercoreus, (Gallery of Photos ..).
  2.1- The Northern Group, the north of the river Jordan:
  3D Views, Biete Qeddus Mercoreus
     
Biete Qeddus Mercoreus Inside, Painting Icons Face of this Biete
 
 
 
   4.2.3- Biete Abba Libanos (House of Abba Libanos)
Visit Page - "Biete Abba Libanos , LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA          
  • Biete Abba Libanos (House of Abbot Libanos), that King Lalibela's wife carved this church. Abba Libanos, one of Lalibela's rock-cut churches
    Note:
    Some believes that Empress Meskel Kibra (the wife of King Lalibela) built this church though the local church scholars do not accept it.
  • The roof is not separated from the rock but a tunnel detached the other four sides. The church carries a huge block of rock
  • .It locally symbolize the priest that carries the tabot (the Ark of the Covenant).
  • It is the smallest from the Eastern group of churches.
 
  Visit Page - "Biete Abba Libanos , LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"  

 

    Plan of Page, "Biete Abba Libanos , LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA":
 
  1. Biete Abba Libanos  Description, (3D Models, Video, 3D Panorams Views)
  2. Outside of Biete Abba Libanos , (Gallery of Photos ..).
  3. Iutside of Biete Abba Libanos , (Gallery of Photos ..).
 
     
Biete Abba Libanos Inside, of this Biete Biete Abba Libanos
 
 
 
   4.2.4- Biete Gabriel-Rufael (House of the angels Gabriel, and Raphael)  
Visit Page - "Biete Gabriel-Rufae, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"         
  • The Biete Gabriel-Rufael (House of the angels Gabriel, and Raphael) possibly a former royal palace, linked to a holy bakery.
    It has an impressive monumental façade facing to the north and ornamented with original niches whose top shape is similar to the top part of the Axumit Stele.
  • Near to the church, there is a carved band of rock locally called ‘the path of heaven’. It is  a wall shaped and rises from the ground and ascending to the roof.
  • There is a well and underground cistern down in the courtyared.
  • It is a church whose original entrance is still hidden. Access to the church is through long bridge crossing the main trench.
  • There are three straight Latin crosses incised in to the interior wall.
  • There is also a huge manuscript called ‘Gedle Sema’etat” (Hagiograph of Martyrs).
  • It has not east-west orientation, thus some speculates it was originally built for secular purposes rather than the church.
  more Detail,        Visit Page - "Biete Gabriel-Rufae, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"  

 

    Plan of Page, "Biete Gabriel-Rufae, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"
 
  1. Biete Gabriel-Rufae Description, (3D Models, Video, 3D Panorams Views)
  2. Outside of Biete Gabriel-Rufae, (Gallery of Photos ..).
  3. Iutside of Biete Gabriel-Rufae, (Gallery of Photos ..).
 
     
Entrance the Archangel Michael Icon Priest Stands
 
 
 
   4.2.5- Biete  Lehem (House of Holy Bread).
    Visit Page - "Biete Lehem, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"            
  The Biete Lehem is an underground monolith church carved into rock. It is located in Lalibela, Ethiopia. It was created during the Kingdom of Axum. It is part of UNESCO World Heritage Site at Lalibela. The name Biete Lehem is from Biete lehem Hebrew (House of Holy Bread)
 
  more Detail,        Visit Page - "Biete Lehem, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"  

 

    Plan of Page, "Biete Lehem, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA":
 
  1. Biete Lehem Description, (3D Models, Video, 3D Panorams Views)
  2. Outside of Biete Lehem, (Gallery of Photos ...)
  3. Iutside of Biete Lehem, (Gallery of Photos ...)
 
     
  Tunnel  
 
 
 
 
  4.3- The Western Group, Site Plan, Biete Giyorgis
 
 
   4.3.0- the Site plan
Visit Page - "Biete Giyorgis, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA"       
  The Western Group, 3th Group, 1 Church
 
 
 

   1- Biete Giyorgis

.
 
    The Western Group, 1 Church
  • Biete Giyorgis (Church of Saint George), thought to be the most finely executed and best preserved church
    The eleventh church, Biete Ghiorgis (House of St. George), is isolated from the others, but connected by a system of trenches1
 
   4.3.1- Biete Giyorgis (Church of Saint George)
Visit Page - "Biete Giyorgis, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA "             
North of the Jordan river, but much further to the west, and somewhat isolated from the others, is the remarkable church of Bet Giyorgis, possibly the most elegant of all the Lalibela structures, located in the south-west of the village on a sloping rock terrace. In a deep pit with perpendicular walls, it can only be reached through a tunnel entered a distance away through a trench. Small round caves and chambers have been found in the courtyard walls — graves for pious pilgrims and monks.This famous church stands alone in the southwest. Dating to the early 13th century AD, it is the most recently built of the Lalibela churches.

The most famous of the churches at Lalibela is "Beta Giyorgis" (The House of Saint George). It is not part of an interconnected complex, but stands on its own on a plinth in a rectangular pit 11 metres deep, with a 30 metre long approach trench. It has blind lower windows, in an Aksumite style, with higher open windows central to each face when viewed from the outside.

Standing on a three-tiered plinth, Bet Giyorgis is shaped like a Greek cross and has walls — with an alternation of projecting and recessing horizontal layers — reminiscent of Axumite archi¬tecture. The church also has an elaborately shaped doorway.

 
  more Detail,        Visit Page - "Biete Giyorgis, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA "  

 

    Plan of Page, "Biete Giyorgis, LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA":
 
  1. Biete Giyorgis Description, (3D Models, Video, 3D Panorams Views)
  2. Outside of Biete Giyorgis, (Photos ..).
  3. Iutside of Biete Giyorgis, (Photos ..).
  2.1- The Northern Group, the north of the river Jordan:
 
   
   
Area View of Western Group of Church, Bet Giyorgis
 
 
 
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