Resting off on its own, St George's Church is Lalibela’s masterpiece. Representing the apogee of the rock-hewn tradition, the Bet Giyorgis is the most visually perfect church of all, a 15m-high three-tiered plinth in the shape of a Greek cross; a shape that required no internal pillars. Due to its exceptional preservation, it also lacks the obtrusive roofing seen over the other churches.
Inside, light flows in from the windows and illuminates the ceiling’s large crosses: beauty in simplicity. Peer over the curtain to see the maqdas’ beautiful dome. There are also two 800-year-old olive-wood boxes (one with opposing corkscrew keys) that locals believe were carved by King Lalibela himself and now hold the church’s treasures. Some of the cavities in the walls surrounding the church hold mummified corpses.
The Church of St. George (Amharic: Bete Giyorgis) is one of eleven monolithic churches in Lalibela, a city in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia. Originally named Roha or Warwar, this historical and religious site is currently accepted in the modern name of Lalibela, after King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela of Ethiopia, who is regarded as a saint-like figure by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
Carved from a variation of Limestone, Tufa is the primary and only building material used in the rock-cut structure. In the 12th century, it is the best known and last built of the eleven churches in the Lalibela area, and has been referred to as the "Eighth Wonder of the World". Lalibela, King of Ethiopia, sought to recreate Jerusalem, and structured the churches' landscape and religious sites in such a way as to achieve such a feat. "The churches at Lalibela are clustered in two major groups, one representing the earthly Jerusalem, and the other representing the heavenly Jerusalem. Located directly between them is a trench representing the River Jordan". The dimensions of the trench are 25 meters by 25 meters by 30 meters, and there is a small baptismal pool outside the church, which stands in an artificial trench.
According to Ethiopian cultural history, Bete Giyorgis was built after King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela of the Zagwe dynasty had a vision in which he was instructed to construct the church; Saint George and God have both been referred to as the one who gave him the instructions. Thanks Mr Wikipedia.
This is the church that is seen in travel articles and brochures of Ethiopia and here I was standing above it. Yes, can tick off one of the reasons why I wanted to come to Ethiopia to see this sight for myself. I was glad that Christmas was approaching as it was the many locals present dressed in their white who made this morning so enjoyable and memorable. It was going inside the churches themselves which was for me going into the unknown. Then seeing how the locals both young and old were blessed by the priests.
There are also two 800-year-old olive-wood boxes (one with opposing corkscrew keys) that locals believe were carved by King Lalibela himself and now hold the church’s treasures.
Some of the cavities in the walls surrounding the church hold mummified corpses.
Finally on leaving I took 2 selfies and am pleased with the second one being near perfect composition wise!
Passing again through the locals and their makeshift campsite again, it was a short distance to our own lunch spot being Seven Olives.
Gomen Besga spinach and beef stewed in butter tomato and onion base 64.80 birr / NZ$4.30 / US$3.20.
Bet Giyoris / St George’s Church
Sunday, January 04, 2015
Lalibela, Amhara, Ethiopia