Monday, January 22, 2018

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Lalibela

Rock-Hewn Churches:

Lalibela is a town in northern Ethiopia that is famous for its 11 monolithic rock-cut churches. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country.The town of Lalibela was originally known as ROHA.  It was renamed after the 12th-century King Lalibela,

who commissioned these churches.  King 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, King Lalibela sought the support of the powerful Ethiopian Orthodox Church by building the churches in this small town. The population of Lalibela is completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. Lalibela is a town in northern Ethiopia that is famous for its 11 monolithic rock-cut churches.

Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country.
The population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. Lalibela is located in the Semien Wollo Zone of the Amhara ethnic division at roughly 2,500 meters above sea level. It is the main town in Lasta woreda,
The first European to see these churches was the Portuguese explorer Pêro da Covilhã (1460–1526).
Portuguese priest Francisco Álvares (1465–1540), who accompanied the Portuguese Ambassador on his visit to Lebna Dengel in the 1520s.

From Tedla Gebeyehu 

*11 Monolithic Church’s of Lalibela,Ethiopia*

The first European to see these churches was the Portuguese explorer Pêro da Covilhã (1460–1526). Portuguese priest Francisco Álvares (1465–1540), accompanied the Portuguese Ambassador on his visit to Lebna Dengel in the 1520s. He describes the unique church structures as follows:

“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 term “monolithic church” is most often used to refer to the complex of 11 churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia, believed to have been created in the 12th century. These churches are the Church of the Redeemer, of Saint Mary, of Mount Sinai, of Golgotha, of the House of the Cross, of the House of the Virgins, of Saint Gabriel, of Abba Matta, of Saint Mercurius, and of Immanuel. The most famous of the edifices is the cross-shaped Church of St. George (Beta Giyorgis). Tradition credits its construction to Ethiopian King Lalibela, who was a devout Christian.

King Lalibela transformed his capital, which took his name, Lalibela, into a hidden holly fortress, buried into the ground. The best artisans and artists worked for decades at its edification, inside the mountains, carving and cutting into the stone blocks for realizing some of the most amazing monolith type sanctuaries in the world.

The churches of Lalibela are of three types: chapels built inside a grotto, cut into the wall of a cliff (or abrupt slope), and chapels cut into the ground. Most of them were cut into the ground. First, a quadrilateral groove was dug, then the inner side of the monolith block was emptied of stone. The church was always begun with the top side, by chiseling the roof. The carved stone was a rose-colored tuff. Even if missing a framework and concrete.

Biet Mariam (The Church of Saint Mary) is, oppositely, richly decorated with stone roses, frescoes and arabesques, all vividly relating scenes of the Old Testament. Jesus is represented as the Sun. The windows look like Latin, Greek or swastika-like crosses.
The most elegant is the church of Saint George, which has a cross shape and rose, greenish and yellowish hues. The inner side is like a cross, with no pillar.

Even today, these churches host a big religious Ethiopian festivity called Timkat (the Showing of God). In the sound of drums and bells, in white-red clothes, a suite of dancing people surrounds the churches. The Ethiopian priests hold the specific bronze crosses. For the Ethiopian Christians this is like the second Jerusalem.