After the fall of the Kingdom of Axum, the kings from the Zagwe dynasty transferred their residence to Lalibela, the south-east of Axum. There, they erected a flourishing and densely-populated capital city, the residence of their Middle Age dynasty. Lalibela, previously known as Roha, was called in this manner to commemorate the King of Lalibela from the end of 12th century. The city was established as New Jerusalem. In that historical period, travelling on pilgrimages to proper Jerusalem was impossible, because the lands between Jerusalem and Ethiopia had been conquered by Muslims. The churches of Lalibela leave no one disinterested. These intriguing edifices have in their entirety been forged out in a homogeneous lump of red volcanic tuff. They seem to be absolutely unreal and created by some kind of a superhuman power. Rock temples might be admired in different places in the world, but it is solely here that not only the internal space, but also facades and external walls have been forged out. The churches of Lalibela are referred to as the least known of the eight miracles of the world, and they full deserve that name. The buildings are in their entirety forged out in rock, and, simultaneously, completely separated from that. In the subsequent centuries, Lalibela was gradually decreasing in importance, so as to become a small village. For those unaware of its existence, this place situated at the foothills of the mountain called Abuna Yosef, which is practically inaccessible. It is only approaching rock church really close that makes it possible to judge exceptional character. Monolithic Saint George’s Church, having the characteristic shape of the Greek cross, evokes admiration. The largest church is Bet Medhane Alem, and it is 33 meter long, 23 meter wide and 11.5 meter high. A legend has it that the workers were labouring throughout a day, and at night their work was continued by Angels with doubled strength. .
close examination is required to appreciate the full extent of the achievement because,like medieval mysteries,much effeort has been made to cloack their nature. four are completely free-standing,attached only to the surrounding rock by their bases .these are beta medhanealem,beta mariam,beta ammanule,beat ghiorgis.Althhough their individual dimensions and configurations are extremely different , the churchs are all bulit from great blocks of stone,sculptured to resemble normal buildings and wholly isolated within deep courtyards.They represent, as one authority has put it ,”the ultimate in rock church design … one is amazed at the technical skill, the material resources and the continuity of effort which such vast undertakings imply”.
churches in Lalibela
The 11 rock-hewn churches and chapels of lalibela are divided into two main clusters .the main ticket office located at the town center leads directly to the northern clusters ,where a massive subterranean courtyard encloses bete medhanealem-the world’s largest rock-hewn monolith,supported by 36 external pillars. From here, a rock-hewn passage leads to the atmospheric Bet maryam, with an elaborately carved interior and lovely painted ceiling. here,too,stands Bete Gologotha, reputed burial place of king Lalibela, and the selassie chaple, a sanctuary so holy it is closed to all visitors.In the southern church cluster,the fortress-like Bete Gabriel-Rafael, enclosed by a deep dry moat, and the superbly worked monolithic Bete Emanuel demonstrate stronger Aksumite architectural influences than their northern counterparts. The most spectacular rock-hewn church in Laibela is Bete Giyorgis,a 15-meter tall monolith surrounded by a gaping subterranean trench.legend has it that this symmetrically cruciform church so delighted saint george that he rode his horse right over the entrance tunnel. leaving behind hoof prints that still today