Skip to comments.Lalibela [The Mystery of Ethiopia's Extraordinary Excavated Churches]
Posted on 03/03/2011 6:48:08 AM PST by marshmallow
The small town of Lalibela in Ethiopia is home to one of the world's most astounding sacred sites: eleven rock-hewn churches, each carved entirely out of a single block of granite with its roof at ground level.
Bet Giorgis (St. George)
Were it not for these extraordinary churches, Lalibela would almost certainly be well off the tourist radar. A dusty rural town nestled into rolling countryside, Lalibela only recently received electricity. It has few motorized vehicles, no gas stations and no paved streets. Isolated from the modern world, the town goes about its business much as it has for several hundred years.
Of Lalibela's 8-10,000 people, over 1,000 are priests. Religious ritual is central to the life of the town, with regular processions, extensive fasts, crowds of singing and dancing priests. This, combined with its extraordinary religious architecture and simplicity of life, gives the city of Lalibela a distinctively timeless, almost biblical atmosphere.
The town of Lalibela was originally known as Roha. It was renamed after the 12th-century King Lalibela, who commissioned these extraordinary churches. Lalibela was a member 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'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.
(Excerpt) Read more at sacred-destinations.com ...
More pictures at link.
Wow, those pictures are absolutely amazing.
Nowhere in the article does it explain why they were built underground. Was it cooler or what?
This is fascinating...thanks!
The churches are entirely hidden from view from all but a short distance away, so one school of thought says that it was to keep them safe from those who might wish to destroy them.
Because that's where the rock was.
Wow, that is amazing. Thanks for this....never heard of them before.
The orthodox Ethiopian church is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world. Supposedly founded by the Apostle Mark in 45 AD. Amazingly enough, one can go to youtube.com and hear orthodox Ethiopian church hymns.
Try it you may like it.
The amount of skill involved in removing the surrounding stone is amazing~
One of the parishioners at our Greek Orthodox parish is from Lalibela. His wife’s family is from Axum, also mentioned in the article. They are very devout Orthodox people.
They had a baby girl three years ago. They named her Martha, “after Martha Washington because she is an American baby!” You just gotta love these folks!
Below grade ping.
fascinating. thank you marshmallow
of course “Miss Geography Dolly Cali” had to go to Google Maps to see where in the heck Lalibela was. (I SORT OF KNOW WHERE Ethiopia is in Africa!)
***Nowhere in the article does it explain why they were built underground. Was it cooler or what?***
Many, many years ago a NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine had an article about Ethieopian churches.
In the article it said the moslems destroyed so many churches that the Christians began to hack new churches ot of living rock that could not be burned.
“They are very devout Orthodox people.”
With Lent arriving within days, food is on my mind!
The combination of Greek cooking and Ethiopean dishes is causing me to drool.
My love of Greek cooking runs strictly to roast lamb and ouzo. Often in combination...
Hopefully not during Great Lent!
Mix in some good Lebanese/Syrian food and wine from the Bekaa Valley and you've gone to culinary heaven! I expect I'll be eating lentils and cheese for dinner............oh well!
Yeah, we have to enjoy that cheese while we can!
(We had shrimp with tomatoes, lemon, dill, and feta for dinner!)
Beautiful Catholic/Orthodox Art and Architecture!
Hopefully not during Great Lent!
Can we get a pass on March 17?
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EVERYONE knows that March 17 is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the various Latin Rite Ordinaries. Thankfully, our local one, something of a jerk and generally disliked in other respects, has traditionally exercised economia and lifted the fast for that most joyous of days....You however will have to take that up with your local bishop.
Great article. Wish I had about six months to devote entirely to this subject.
My local bishop does not think very highly of me right now. Last Sunday we had the ‘planning meeting’ for the diocese in which the bishop had the cannibal’s victims planning who would be first to go - preparation for closing parishes in light of the priest shortage.
They set up areas around one local church’s gathering area in which one could self identify as ‘mad’, ‘sad’, ‘scared’ and some other mealy mouthed designations. There was only myself and one anonymous priest who declined to speak in our area - guess which. I spoke rousingly to the TV camera. Prior to this, I had virtually monopolized the Q&A time with the good bishop. The upshot was that he was very uncomfortable and there wasn’t anything that he could do about it.
After the meeting was over, I approached him and struck up a conversation. I asked him to not take my questions unamiss. He assured me that he didn’t. I then congratulated him on not answering any of them. At that point, he came unglued and starting stammering and sweating. He then glanced at his watch and said that he had to go and scampered off like a chipmunk.
He has 6 years until retirement. Perhaps I shall help fill his days with meaning until then...
This should make your heart sing.
Here is a link that explains that these churches were NOT carved out of granite (which would have been almost impossible) but out of volcanic tuff, a much softer material. Still a major achievement. The article also explains the politics and why it was hidden, thank the Muslims once again, among others.
It is always the laity's position to do God's work in The Church! :)
Awesome and the kinds of new Americans we need.
Fancy Serb! I think I'll have lobster this weekend, so there!
And lest we forget Martha Washington was named after who else-—Martha the sister of Lazarus and Mary -— the name itself originates from the Aramaic martha meaning lady or mistress.
It’s easy to see why there are no cars in the village. Going to church on Wed. night could be a serious problem with those excavations as speed bumps.
Here is a link about Ethiopian muslims attacking and destroying 5 churches in Ethiopia now. Guess they wish they were hidden too.
Martha calls me “Theo”, and I get to hold her during the liturgy as long as my back holds out. I always get a big wet kiss! She’s my “mavritsa koukla”!
Thanks for the informative links.
Yes, generally all in white. If you were to go inside, you would notice that the women take their shoes off before entering the nave, because that is God's House and thus holy ground. America is blessed to have such people as immigrants.