The rock churches of Lalibela were carved out of the stone. At first, the sides were cleared by deep trenches and then the interior was hollowed out. At the church Bet Abba Libanos the rock above the church was not worked, it is the only one without roof. The façade consists partly of masonry.
Bet Gabriel and Rufael are accessible from above. This fact suggests that the church was also used as palace. The entrance is only reached by a small bridge over the abyss. The adventurous way to the church is also called "Way to Heaven".
The church "Bet Maryam" (Mary) is the oldest rock church of Lalibela. The church has been modeled after the tomb of Adam and Jesus. The church has beautiful windows, with cross and Hindu Swastika symbols. There are beautiful murals inside the building.
Under the rule of "King Lalibela" 11 churches were carved into the red tufa, between the 12th and 13th century. The "New Jerusalem" by King Lalibela is a group of rock-hewn churches, which are connected by trenches, tunnels and bridges. Lalibela is said to have lived in Jerusalem and decided to build a "New Jerusalem" in his home country, after the conquest of the "Holy City" by the Muslims in 1187. The rock church "Bet Emanuel" is one of the most beautiful churches of Lalibela and probably served as the King's Chapel.
Bet Medhane Alem is the largest rock church of Lalibela with a height of 10 m. The "Golden Cross", which allegedly heals diseases, is also kept here. Very interesting are the protruding columns, which stand in front of the façade. The rock carvings of "Lalibela" were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
As the last of Lalibela's rock churches "Bet Giyorgis" is the highlight of the "New Jerusalem". The Church of Saint George was built on a cross plan. With its clear, simple form and it's patina, the church seems to be a part of the hill.
The bizarre looking restaurant "Ben Abeba" is located about 1.5 kilometers outside the city center of Lalibela, on the country road to the north. The restaurant sits on a slope, with a beautiful view over the valley. "Ben Abeba" is a cooperation between an Ethiopian and a Scottish woman. European hygiene, Ethiopian dishes and international food make the restaurant a worthwhile destination, in addition to the view and the architecture.
Rock churches in Lalibela
The first rock churches were built in 1187 under the rule of King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela. The city of Lalibela should become the new Jerusalem after the real Jerusalem was conquered by the Muslims.