Thursday, January 04, 2007

At Lalibela, devotees of faith

Lalibela's rockhewn churches date back to the late 12th/early 13th century, built by King Lalibela. Rockhewn means that the building materials were not transported to the site, rather, the churches were carved into or excavated out of existing stone, either cut into a vertical stone face or separated from all sides by a trench.

Lalibela is the epicenter for the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church. It is a holy place, and when you have escaped the touts and other hassles and are sharing the churches with the many devoted pilgrims who journey there (sometimes walking 20-30 days!) to pray, you feel it. Is said by other Ethiopians that these churches, priest and pilgrims keep and protect (Ethiopian Orthodox) Christianity for everyone else.
Lalibela has 11 main rockhewn churches, one group of 7 and another group of 4. These are connected by trenches and caves (and sometimes rickety bridges). At one point I had to walk through a completely pitch black cave of over 70 feet! With no flashlight (and no company in the cave) I walked slowly and ran my hand along the side of the wall for reassurance.

These pictures can't convey the wonderment of this place; I offer them humbly.
Bet Medhene Alem, the largest monolithic (free standing) rockhewn church in the world:

Bet Giyorgis (exquisite):

Bet Abba Libanos (FOR DAN, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!):


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