Lalibela, Ethiopia

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15 years ago in California, I bought a silver cross inspired in design by Bet Giorgis, the Church of St. George, in Lalibela Ethiopia. A few days ago, John and I finally visited Lalibela and saw the inspiring medieval monolithic cave churches in this World Heritage Site for ourselves.  Mostly built in the 12th century, Lalibela today is a major tourist and pilgrimage site, featuring good food (especially at the Mountain View Hotel, and the interestingly modern Ben Abeba restaurant) and comfortable hotels with lovely views.

John and I only had one day to visit Lalibela. After the early morning flight from Addis, we saw the cave church at Na’akueto La’ab, the northwestern church group, and Bet Giorgis. The building outsides are well maintained, and the churches themselves are in active use by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Inside are ancient painting and icons, worn rugs, big drums, and benches. Long curtains protect the holy space – inside of which is a replica of the tablets in the original Ark of the Covenant – itself said to be in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion (in the town of Axum in the Tigray Province, Ethiopia). There are remains of frescoes on some church walls plus elaborate ceiling carvings.  The churches vary in size and design but all are carved from red basalt below ground level – from the living rock.

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Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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