Carved from top to down from a single stone in 12 Century, the 11 rock-hewn Lalibela Churches will shutter one’s expectation of Ethiopia, and will clearly stretch one’s engineering knowledge to a whole new level.
Often dubbed the 8th wonders of the world, Lalibela Churches are located in the northern part of Ethiopia in the town of Lalibela, some 650 km away from the Capital Addis Ababa. It has a total of 11 churches, each carved out of a single volcanic rock about 900 years ago.
According to legend, King Lalibela wanted to build a New Jerusalem following the halting of pilgrimages by a Muslim leader called Saladin, who conquered the holy city of Jerusalem. Besides, it was aimed at serving as the closest place for pilgrimage for those who cannot afford to travel to Jerusalem back then.
The locals narrate that the King had visited Jerusalem during his youth, and his memory of it dictated the layouts of churches. Today, there are 11 rock-hewn Lalibela Churches that mesmerize international and local tourists and pilgrims alike. Carved from a standalone rock in the shape of a cross, Saint George is the most iconic of them all.
By and large, the carving of the churches took only 23 years, which is beyond imagination, considering the complex underground tunnel system and interconnection of the churches. On the top of that, all the churches’ rooftop is a ground level. Hence, one cannot see these churches a few distance away, as they are all underground.
Above all, fact that they are all carved out of a single rock, some carved into a cliff, and others from a stand-alone rock, makes it one of the top must-see places in the world. As a result, the Lalibela Churches is a member of UNESCO world heritage sites for its ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ designated in 1978.
Importance of Churches of Lalibela
Ethiopia has one of the oldest Christian churches in the world. It is also the second country, only after Armenia, to adopt Christianity as a state religion. In this regard, the importance of Lalibela Churches is immense to the Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity for centuries. The churches are considered to be one of the holiest places in Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Due to this, pilgrims from all over the country crowd the little town and the Lalibela Churches to receive their blessing. As part of the pilgrimage, some of these pilgrims walk barefoot for weeks and months to get to the church.
Therefore, many undoubtedly argue that the Lalibela Churches should be visited by anyone once in a lifetime. We could not agree more!