Thursday, March 22, 2012

Church of Saint George, Lalibela

The Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela comprise eleven monolithic churches in the heart of Ethiopia. Lalibela itself is one of the holiest cities in Ethiopia for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Carved from the rock in the early thirteenth century, it is the most well known and last built of the eleven churches in the area; a 15m-high three-tiered plinth in the shape of a Greek cross. The Church of St. George or Bet Giyorgis started as a carved out rock, forming a deep and wide trench, after which the church was carved from the remaining rock. Having carved out a crucifix-shaped chunk of rock, they began the exterior detailing - not only doors and windows but also a wide set of steps leading in, and even some decorative carving. Once that was complete, they still had to hollow out solid rock to create the church's interior.

Bet Giyorgis came to be built when an angry St. George appeared to King Lalibela in a dream, sitting on a white horse, clad in armour, demanding to know why the king had built 10 churches without dedicating any to St George. King Lalibela promptly got to work on one final church, one better than all the rest.

Inside, light flows in from the windows and illuminates the ceiling’s large crosses. There are also two 800-year-old olive-wood boxes inside; one is rumored to have been carved by King Lalibela himself. Inside the box is a crucifix, which allegedly was made with gold brought from King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.

Photo credit: George Steinmetz
The top of the church - LINK

Photo credit: Julien Demade via Wikimedia Commons


Photo credit: Olivier Vuigner - LINK
Photo credit: Gavin Hellier - LINK
The steps of the Bet Giyorgis compound - LINK

Info from here and here and here

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