Tour to Lalibela during the Coptic Christmas visiting the monolithic churches carved into the rock
January 6th, 2011
Lalibela is a town located in the heart of the Ethiopian plateau and is known for the presence of several buildings, mostly churches, built by carving a single huge block of rock, without adding any external building materials like bricks or concrete. The trip to Lalibela was held during the celebration of the Coptic Christmas, which falls in Ethiopia on January 7 of each year.
Lalibela pictures. This town is located in the heart of the Ethiopian plateau, at an altitude of about 2600 meters, and is well known thanks to the presence of some interesting groups of churches built by digging into the rock, without using any building materials like bricks.
The tour to Lalibela begins with a visit the rock church of Medhane Alem Bete, probably the world's largest monolithic church (rock carved church, built by excavating a single huge block of rock). The churches carved into the rock are dated back to the years 1150 / 1300 and in the days around the Coptic Christmas (January 7) they are literally invaded by pilgrims coming here from all parts of Ethiopia, to celebrate this important holiday.
A pilgrim is immersed in the reading of prayers.
Pilgrims gathered in the trench that is formed between the church carved into the rock and the rock surrounding it. Some read the sacred texts, others are resting in some shelter.
A pilgrim sleeps below a niche carved into the rock, often used by Coptic priests as a dormitory.
Rock churches tour. At a short distance from the first, there is another monolithic church, surrounded by hundreds of faithful. The rock churches are divided into groups depending on their position within the town of Lalibela and it seems incredible that they can be "simply " carved from a single block of rock, without using any extra material.
Faithful gathered around the rock carved church, in their preparations for the celebration of Coptic Christmas.
The pilgrims are very friendly and curious about the tourists who photograph them, so they often ask to see themselves in the camera's display.
The interiors of the monolithic churches are finely decorated. Everything, including rooms, columns, arches, capitals and reliefs are all made by just carving a huge block of rock. Just amazing.
The rock churches are linked to each other through narrow tunnels forming a kind of labyrinth.
Pilgrims queues in the tunnels, waiting for their turn to enter inside the churches. The gathering of faithful and tourists is very high during the Coptic Christmas holidays.
Rock carved church picture.
The church of Bet Giorgis (St George), is perhaps the most famous rock carved church of Lalibela, for its suggestive shape looking like a Greek cross. The church has been obtained by digging down the mountain, removing an enormous amount of rock.
Photos of St George church (Bet Giorgis) in Lalibela. The trench between the actual rock church and the rock and surrounding the building, is full of tourists and faithful, here for the Coptic Christmas.
The access to the rock church of St George is through a claustrophobic break that goes down to the entrance of the church.
More pictures of the monolithic church of St. George from the outside .
The interior of St George church, obtained by "simply" carving a huge block of rock inside the mountain.
Priests, monks and Coptic faithful on pilgrimage to the church of St. George in Lalibela.
The Lalibela tour continues by visiting other rock churches.
A window in the rock.
Rock church picture. Our Lalibela rock church tour continues with a visit to the beautiful Bet Amanuel (Emmanuel House) having a characteristic and very elaborate facade. Unfortunately, to protect rock churches from the elements, horrible roofs supported by metal poles have been built, which irreparably destroy the magic atmosphere of this suggestive place. I agree to protect this heritage in some way, but this may be done with less visual impact.
Pilgrims reach the various rock churches by walking in a claustrophobic tunnels carved into the rock.
Tunnels and passages digged into the rock.
Monolithic church picture. The day ends with a visit to this rock church.