An Ethiopian Journal

"Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters"

Lalibela Rock-Hewn Churches

with one comment

Great mini-documentary on the history and significance of Lalibela

While churches sought to rise to the sky in Europe, in Africa they were being carved out of the earth. In the highlands of Ethiopia during twelfth century, a man called Lalibela rose to power, was crowned King, and went on to establish a Christian empire spanning the highlands and stretching to the sea. His ambition was to build a religious state and a spiritual center to rival Jerusalem. He claimed to have been shown – in a vision – the most holy of churches in Heaven. He ordered tools be made to carve temples out of the rock like those he had seen.

Craftsmen toiled in the stony mountains for over twenty-four years to create these unique rock churches. Some of Lalibela’s motivation to build these unusual structures stemmed from a desire to claim legitimacy. He belonged to a dynasty that had seized the throne and the churches helped him gain acceptance. His efforts paid off: today he is revered as a saint and his shrine attracts a continuous flow of pilgrims. While all religions at one time or another have constructed shrines and physical symbols to serve an ideological purpose, striking awe into to the layman and establishing the clergy’s direct connection to the power of God, Lalibela clearly lacked legitimacy and used these temples to insure his leadership.


Written by Tseday

April 8, 2009 at 12:22 am

One Response

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  1. It is pleasing to see acknowledgement of the Africans role in the growth and development of Christianity, and acknowledgement of the military prowess of Africans in the pursuit of polotical power and hegenomy.Oloye Orawale Oranfe


    December 23, 2009 at 10:44 pm

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