Travel Destination: Ethiopia Medieval Stone Cut Churches
Most travelers prefer to go to Europe or Jerusalem in search of old, medieval churches. They do not know that Ethiopia has its own Christian Medieval churches. They are ideal for the religious or cultural conscious traveler, who is in search of something new to see. Most of these monolithic rock-cut churches are found in Lalibela. It is said to be one of the holiest cities in the country, and it is still a center of pilgrimage. The churches there are all Orthodox Christians. Ethiopia was among the first nations to adopt Christianity. This conversion took place in the first half of the fourth century. The formation of the churches are said to be a symbolic representation of Jerusalem. A good number of them are treated as Unesco Historic sites. The churches were made during the reign of the Saint King Gebre Mesqel Lalibel. He ruled during the 12th century. The saint king acquired his name because at his birth a swarm of bees surrounded him. His mother saw it as a sign that he would be king. During his youth, Lalibela spent his time in Jerusalem. In 1187, Jerusalem had been captured by Muslims. The Holy Land had been taken over by non-Christians. In response to this, Lalibel decided to make a New Jerusalem in Ethiopia. Each church is carved from a single piece of rock. It is carved downward, to show the humility and spirituality of the Christian Church. A lot of the features in that city have Biblical names. Even Lalibela’s River is known as the River Jordan. The first European to see these churches was Pero da Covilha, a Portuguese explorer. He was shocked and surprised by the designs. There are about 11 stone-cut churches. The year of creation of each of the churches is not well established. Unesco thinks they were made between the 12th and 13th century. They are all assigned into 4 groupings, due to the proximity of certain churches. One can easily find 4 churches grouped together. Travelers need not go far to see a wide array of churches. Beyond these churches, there is the monastery of Ashetan Maryam and the Ymrehane Kristos church. They are no stone cut; rather they were built inside a cave. Since the churches were made of living rock, historians think it took several decades for them to be completed. [gallery ids="5551,5553,5552,5550,5549,5534"] Some historians theorize they were made with the help of the Knights Templar. This theory was later disputed by the uniqueness of the churches. They are in every respected Ethiopian Christian churches, completely devoid of European influences. They also employ the element of water to fill the wells inside the churches. They have their own unique architectural genius. These churches are truly worth checking out. The locals are deeply religious, since they still use those churches. Tourists can visit them and get a guided tour from the monks, priest or the locals. They are all educated about the culture of their city.