WORLD HERITAGE SITE: “By Vast Expense and hideous pain, The Rock a Church became”, (New History of Ethiopia; Ludolf, H, 1684).
Lalibella, The second capital of the ancient Ethiopian empire in the north (next to Axum) and graced with the most beautiful setting on the mountains of Lasta, has a distinctively African atmosphere. Days can be spent exploring the mysterious rock hewn churches carved from solid rock by one of the last kings of the Zagwe dynasty, Lalibela. Previously known as Roha, Lalibela is named after the king.
At the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries King Lalibela of the Zaghwe dynasty built a series of rock hewn churches, the New Jerusalem, now rightly categorized as one of the wonders of the world. There are 11 churches within the town named after him, and outlying churches that can be visited on a second day. All are still in use today. It is estimated that the churches in Lalibela took 25 years to construct – for the Kingdom based on Roha (later renamed Lalibela) to have kept a large work force engaged in economically unproductive labor for such a long period means that it disposed of a large economic surplus and was very wealthy. The area then was clearly fertile and agriculturally productive, whereas now deforestation and other forms of ecological degradation have reduced its productivity and made it prone to drought.
Lalibela has been a center of pilgrimage since the fall of the 12th c. and became favorite tourist destination starting from the 16th century. Still it is a perfect place to discover ancient architecture & culture. The chapels in Lalibela are of three groups.
Here the antiques housed in 11 churches and chapels; namely Bete Medhane Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Meskal, Bete Denagil, Bete Golgotha & Bete Debresina, Bete Amanuel, Bete Merkorios, Bete Aba-libanos, Bete Gebreal Rufael, and Bete Giorgis safe from the prying eyes and plundering hands of hostile interlopers for some 900 years are of particular interest.
- Bete Medhane Alem /House of the Holly Savior/
- Bete Mariam /House of Marry/
- Bete Meskel / House of the cross/
- Bete Denagil /house of virgins/
- Bete Golgota & Bete Debre-sina /twin churches/
- Bete Amanuel / House of Emmanuel /
- Bete-Merkorios /House of Merkorios/
- Bete Aba Libanos /House of father Libanos/
- Bete Gabriel- Rufael /house of St. Gabreal-Rufael/
- Bete Giorgis /House of St. George/
- Yemrehane Kristos
- Asheten Maryam
- Na’Akuto La’Ab
- Genete Mariam