Ethiopia:Underground Churches of Lalibela

August 15, 2011 | In the northern Ethiopian city of Lalibela, stand 11 churches that were chiseled from the ground down. These magnificent churches were carved from volcanic rock over ten centuries ago. The roofs of these churches are ground level and the structures plunge 40 feet into the ground. Each church is reddish-pink and at sunset has a gold and green glow. Each church is richly distinct with features such as cross shaped windows, murals, elaborate ceilings and roofs.

These churches were the vision of King Lalibela in the 12th century. The then capital city of Rocha was renamed after the king. His dream was to create a sacred city in Ethiopia. Some say it was with the intent to boost his power over his rivals. Others say it was to create a New Jerusalem for those who could not make the pilgrimage. Legend says that he had the help of angels with the excavating of the architecture.

Carving the churches from solid rock took 24 years. Some of these churches are connect by tunnels.

The churches names are:
  • Beta Abba Libanos [Church of Abba Libanos]
  • Beta Danagel [Church of the Virgins]
  • Beta Emmanuel [Church of St. Emmanuel]
  • Beta Madhane Alem [Church of the World Savior]
  • Beta Masgal [Church of the Cross]
  • Beta Mekurious [Church of St. Mercurios]
  • Beta Gabriel & Rafael [Church of St. Gabriel & Raphael]
  • Beta Giyorgis [Church of St. George]
  • Beta Lehem
  • Tomb of Adam
  • Maryum.

Today service continues by orthodox Christian monks form the Old Testament and traditional music.Β  Effects are also being made to keep the original environment. Newer surrounding structures have been torn down.


“Ethiopia: Underground Churches of Lalibela” was
originally posted on Mijiza’s Blog.
All rights are reserved by the author.

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  1. Pam Hairston

    I only learned of these churches a few wks ago and I’m still fascinated by them. I know many knowledgeable people but not one had heard of this place, the 8th wonder. I’ve never traveled outside the states and this would be my first choice. Not Paris or London or somewhere in Australia but to the Churches of Lalibela. Such beauty and mystery. It’s a shame what they keep from us. Peace.

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