The Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela were cut out of a living rock during the time of King Lalibela, who ruled Ethiopia from his capital Roha, now Lalibela. The churches are 11 in number, located in three groups. The first groups of Churches are, Bete Medhane Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Meskel Bete Dengil, BeteGolgota, and Bete Michael. The second groups of churches are Bete Gebriel and Rufael, Bete Amanuel, Bete Markorios, connected by a long underground tunnel, Bete Abba Libanos. The last church is Bete Giorgis, a free standing church with architectural elegance and perfection.
The churches were curved in the 12th and 13th Centuries. It is believed that the carving of all the churches took some 24 years. Archaeologists say it would have taken the work of 40,000 work forces to carve these churches, courtyards and caverns out of a living rock.
Ever since the first European to describe the rock churches of Lalibela, Francisco Alvarez, came to this holy city between 1521 and 1525, travellers have tried to put into words their experiences, praising it as a “New Jerusalem”, a “New Golgotha”, and the “Christian Citadel in the Mountains of Wondrous Ethiopia”. . Roha, the centre of worldly might, became Lalibela the holy city; pilgrims to Lalibela shared the same blessings as pilgrims to Jerusalem. Described by most travel writers as the eighth Wonder, the churches were registered under the list of World Heritage Site in 1978.
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