Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, Lalibela

4.8
#1 of 304 in Things to do in Ethiopia
Must see · World heritage site · Ruin · Religious Site
A pilgrim destination and World Heritage Site, Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela lie deep in the mountains at the heart of Ethiopia. Located in one of the country's holiest cities, the 11 monolithic Ethiopian Orthodox churches are believed to have been hand-carved out of rock between the 12th and 14th centuries, resembling Jerusalem in their layout. Two groups of churches cluster between the River Jordan, interlinked by drainage systems and ceremonial passages for visitors to explore. Put Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela on your schedule, and learn what else deserves a visit by using our Lalibela attractions planning site.
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Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela reviews

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  • I definitely recommended to see this place as it’s the main interest here in Lalibela. I would also get a tour guide as it will enhance your experience to this place. Definitely take some photos as...  more »
  • It is astonishing to think that these churches were cut out of the bedrock by hand - that they are still in such good condition nearly 1000 years later is amazing. Do take the time to visit every...  more »
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  • Lalibela in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia is named after Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, ruler of Ethiopia from the late 12th to the early 13th centuries. Ethiopia adopted Christianity at the beginning of the 4th century as one of the first countries in the world to do so, and Lalibela is generally understood to be an architectural reproduction of Jerusalem. One of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, Lalibela is particularly famed for its rock-hewn churches, each constructed from a single piece of rock hewn from the region`s rocky hills. Pinkish in hue, these 11 amazing edifices have been called “the eighth wonder of the world”; they have been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978. The church of St. George, carved inside a huge volcanic rock, and the Bet Medhane Alem (the largest monolithic church in the world) are particularly worth a visit. Lalibela has its own airport, 25 km from the city center (at least 30 minutes, the road is very poor).
  • Orthodox Christian churches carved from solid rock in the mountains of Ethiopia. The 11 rock churches at Lalibela in the Amhara district of northern Ethiopia were probably built by King Gebre Meskel Lalibela, after whom the town is named. A member of the Zagwe dynasty, he ruled this mountainous area of Ethiopia about 900 years ago. A devout Christian of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith, he is said to have created the churches in response to the fall of Jerusalem to a Muslim army in 1187, intending the complex as a recreation of the holy city. Exceptional technique. Each of the churches was made by chiseling away soft, reddish volcanic rock to isolate a rectangular block. The workers then cut inward, hollowing the block to form a room inside. The largest church, Bete Medhane Alem, has rows of outer columns like a Greek temple. Bete Gyorgis, the best preserved, is in the shape of a cross. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, the churches are a living place of pilgrimage visited by thousands of worshippers each day.

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