There is a small city in Central Ethiopia, founded in the 12th century AD. The city is situated on a mountain ridge at 2500 meters above sea level. Initially, it was called Roha, and later was renamed after the most significant emperor of the dynasty Zague, king Lalibela. This city is famous for its unusual churches. The fact is that they are completely carved in the volcanic rock and connected by tunnels. In total, there are 11 such churches in Lalibela. The world knows this city as a “city of the priests and the rock-hewn churches”.
According to the legend, the Emperor of Lalibela wanted to create a “second Jerusalem” on Ethiopian land. These temples are considered as unique monuments of the rock architecture. Currently, the city is recognized by UNESCO Association as the eighth wonder of the world and a symbol of the Christian religion. Almost all the inhabitants of Lalibela are Christians of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This is one of the holy places of the country, the center of pilgrimage of the population.
The engineering construction was in the following. First, huge trenches were cut with the depth of approximately 12 meters. Inside, there were blocks of stone that served as “blanks” for future temples. Then, the cult structures were hollowed in these lumps. They gradually acquired columns, capitals, ornaments, sculptures, slots. As a result we see a whole building, built without a single nail or a cluster solution.
Churches are made using a variety of architectural styles. Here you will see the Greek columns, Arabian windows, ancient swastika and the Star of David, arches and houses in the Egyptian style. According to historians, they were carved in volcanic tuff in the late 12th century AD. According to estimates of archaeologists, the work at least of 40,000 people was needed for the construction of churches. Their creation took about 23 years. In addition to these monolithic monuments, there are wells located near many churches. They are filled with the help of a complex system based on the use of local artesian bores.
The Church of St. George is the most impressive. This monolith looks as a cross with the sides 12 meters each, and the same 12 meters go underground.
According to the legend a fervent Christian Lalibela saw God in a dream. God told him: “Cut churches out of the rocks, and there will be a New Jerusalem.” Lalibela obeyed God. Therefore, the location of many historic monuments of Lalibela coincides with the location of the buildings of Jerusalem. In addition, the names are the same too. So, there are Calvary and Mournful Path, and even the local river is called Jordan.