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    The Church of Saint George: A Holy Rock-Hewn Ethiopian Landmark


    The 11 stone churches built by Ethiopian King Lalibela is considered to be the Eighth Wonder of the World. The exact date of Lalibela’s rule is unknown, but numerous historians speculate that he reigned in the late 12th or early 13th century AD. Lalibela was a devout Christian who dreamed of recreating Jerusalem in his homeland of Ethiopia. Muslim invaders had temporarily halted pilgrimages to the Christian Holy Land, so Lalibela decided to create a homegrown Holy Land constructed from chiseled slabs of rock. Lalibela’s vision of Jerusalem included intricately carved stone churches that featured windows, columns, drainage ditches and catacombs.

    Church of St. George

    The Church of Saint George, known as Bete Giyorgis, is one of Lalibela’s most awe-inspiring creations. Saint George is often depicted as a prominent military saint who is clothed in valiant armor. Saint George is said to have died by decapitation. It seems appropriate that a powerful ruler like Lalibela would feel compelled to venerate one of Christianity’s great warrior saints. The Church of Saint George is carved out of a single slab of stone embedded in the earth. An aerial view of the Church of Saint George reveals a stark stone cross rising from a large cavern carved from the rust-colored rock of the surrounding mountains.

    St. George Church in Lalibela Ethiopia

    No one knows for sure if the Church of Saint George was completed in Lalibela’s lifetime, or if it was constructed after he died in an attempt to honor his legacy. The cross-shaped stone church has been a popular site for Christian pilgrims since it was first constructed many centuries ago. Lalibela’s sunken network of stone churches appear impossible to access to the untrained eye, but a keen observer will note that there is a small man-made entrance that grants access to the holy stone structures. Countless Christian pilgrims dressed in white have flocked to the Church of Saint George to pray and express their commitment to their unwavering Christian faith.

    Lalibela. The Sign of the Cross. Biete Giyorgis rock church

    Church of St. George, Lalibela

    Interior Ceiling Cross Decoration Architectural Rock-Hewn Church of St George UNESCO World Heritage Site Lalibela Ethiopia Africa

    Interior Ceiling Cross Decoration Architectural Rock-Hewn Church of St George UNESCO World Heritage Site Lalibela Ethiopia Africa

    Aerial view of the monolithic rock-cut church of bete giyorgis, Amhara Region, Lalibela, Ethiopia

    Photo by Eric Lafforgue

    The town of Lalibela is located in a remote region of Ethiopia. The residents of Lalibela live simple, austere lives dominated by religious observance. Many devout Christians believe that the stone churches of Lalibela are one of the truest and purest holy sites left in the modern world. King Lalibela’s vision of a new Jerusalem continues to thrive many centuries after his death. Every Christian pilgrim who stands before The Church of Saint George’s baptismal pool is thankful for Lalibela’s divine inspiration.



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