ETHIOPIA


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LALIBELA

 

the small town lalibela is located in the northern part of ethiopia and can only be reached via non-asphalt roads. yet it is very famous, because of its exceptional and absolutely unique monolithic rock-cut churches - they were declared world-heritage sites in 1978. lalibela is also one of ethiopia's holiest cities, second only to aksum, and the target of intense pilgrimage.

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from about 1150 to about 1270 the zagwe dynasty was ruling in lalibela and made it the capital of ethiopia. the most important king was gebre mesqel lalibela (reigning 11811221). after visiting jerusalem, he was the principal behind erecting 11 rock-cut churches.
the first one shown below is a precursor, situated north of lalibela, the yemrehanna kristos church from the 12th century, built inside a cave on the commission of a zagwe king.

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all rock 'basilicas' are cut out of a rock in one piece. the church inside contains colums, and the walls are decorated with both architectural features and often paintings.
the windows, real or fictive ones, are designed in many specific shapes, all symbolizing christian perspectives.

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some contain sculptures of historic priests. the current priests present christian symbols, as well as old examples of bibles, written in the original ethiopian language. this is also found in old tombstones.

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the bet abba libano, located in the eastern area, is usually assessed as the finest rock church, in terms of its design, outside as well as inside.

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the rock church bet methane alem, located in the northern area, is the largest one, measuring 33m by 23m, and 12m in height.

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by far the most famous one is bet giyorgis (the church of st. george), located in the western area. this rock-cut church, the last one built, is extraordinary in its design and implementation. in fact there is nothing like this building anywhere in the world.

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finally, paintings of lalibela kings/emperors are shown, including the one who was crucial for all this.


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