The first part of this article can be found here

The second group south of the Jordan river comprises four churches Lalibela rockchurches

  • Bete Amanuel
  • Bete Merqorious
  • Bete Aba libanos
  • Bete Gabriel-rufael


Bete Amanuel
Bete Amanuel is perhaps the finest of the group, its elaborate exterior much praised by historians. Its walls imitate the alternate projecting and recessing walls of an Axumite building. The structure  contains a large hall with four pillars and its windows which are irregularly placed are also Axumite in style.

A special staircase leads up to an upper story. The most striking interior feature is the double frieze of blind windows, in the vaulted nave, the lower part being purely ornamental and the upper one consisting of windows alternating with decorated areas.

In the rock floor of the southern aisle a hole opens into a long, subterranean tunnel leading to neighboring Bete Merqorios.
Chambers and cavities for sacred bees in the outer wall of the courtyard are a reminder of the bees that prophesied kingship to Lalibela.

Some of the chambers, however, are the graves of monks and pilgrims who wanted to be buried in this holy city. In this outer wall two further underground passage have been discovered leading to Bete Merqorious.

Bete Merqorious
Partially collapsed and recently restored, is thought to have originally served a secular purpose perhaps that of a house of justice, as amongst the secular objects found in recently excavate trenches were shackles for the ankles of prisoners.

The Lalibela clergy only much later turned it into a shrine for worship, and the part serving today as a church occupies the eastern end of a subterranean hall that opens to a courtyard.

The naked walls of Bete Merqurious were once covered with rich paintings on cotton fabrics, which were attached to the walls by a thick layer of clay, on blood and straw.

For their better preservation they were removed and can now be seen in the national museum in Addis Ababa. They were most likely painted in Gonder and it is thought they originate from the early seventeenth or eighteenth century.

Bete Aba Libanos
Bete Abba Libanos which is separated from the surrounding land on only three sides, is a structure of great charm, and a good example of a cave church. It resembles Bete Amanuel in that its walls are chiseled in Axumite style.

Bete Gabriel-Rufael
It is suspected that Bete Gabriel-rufael was also not originally intended to serve as a church, largly because of its disorientation and unusual plan. The labyrinthine floor plan features three angular halls with pillars and pilasters that are squeezed between two courtyards.

The most impressive part of the church is the monumental facade. Although usually entered from the top of the rick near Bete Amanuel in the east by a small bridge logs leading over the central trench, you may also approach from the east by a series of small tunnel, or gallery—like passage and another log bridge ten meters above the court yard.

Lalibela bete-giorgisBet Giorgis
Bete Giorgis isolated from the others and it is the remarkable church, possibly the most elegant of all the Lalibela structure.

It is located in the south-west of the village on a sloping rock terrace.In a deep pit with perpendicular walls, it can only be reached through a tunnel, which is entered from some distance away through a trench.

Legend says that when king lalibelq had almost completed its churches, he was severly reproached by saint George who in full armor rode up to him on his white horser for not having constructed a house for him.

Lalibela there upon promised the saint the most beautiful church and saint George apparently supervised the execution of the works in person as attested by the fact that monks today still show the hoof marks of its horse to visitors.

Standing on a three-tiered plinth, bête giorgis is shaped in the form of a greek cross, and has walls reminiscent of axumite architecture. The church also has an elaborately shaped door way.

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