Bet Emanuel / Amanuel

Monday, January 05, 2015
Lalibela, Amhara, Ethiopia
Bet Emanuel / Amanuel (10)

At times that I wish I had full shoes on as descending the few steep but slippery smooth steps worn down by countless of thousands of pilgrims to Bet Emanuel was one of those times. Perhaps I should have taken the offer of a helping hand by the female soldier stationed at the bottom!

Freestanding and monolithic, Bet Amanuel is Lalibela's most finely carved church. Some have suggested it was the royal family’s private chapel. It perfectly replicates the style of Aksumite buildings, with its projecting and recessed walls mimicking alternating layers of wood and stone seen at places like Yemrehanna Kristos and Debre Damo.

The most striking feature of the interior is the double Aksumite frieze atop the nave. Although not accessible, there’s a staircase to an upper gallery. In the southwest corner, a hole in the floor leads to a subterranean tunnel that connects the church to Bet Merkorios. The chambers in the walls are the graves of pilgrims who requested to be buried here.

The beautiful carved stones on both the outside and inside with their really sharp edges impressed me. What craftsmanship.

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