Pilgrimage to Ethiopia’s 12th-century iconic churches

6 Jul

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
by Jenna Belhumeur, Aljazeera
 
The 11 medieval churches hewn from solid, volcanic rock in the heart of Ethiopia were built on the orders of King Lalibela in the 12th century. Lalibela set out to construct a “New Jerusalem” in Africa after Muslims conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

Legend has it that the design and layout of the churches mimic those observed by the king in Jerusalem, which he had visited as a youth. Many place names across the town are also said to originate from the king’s memories of the Biblical city.

The churches were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978.

The blocks were chiselled down, forming doors, windows, columns, various floors, trenches and ceremonial passages – some with openings to hermit caves and catacombs. Seven of the churches are organically embedded in the rock, while four are self-standing. The sacred site is a place of pilgrimage for those in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It is said the churches were built in only 24 years.


 

CAPTIONS (in order of pictures’ appearance, pictures by Jenna Belhumeur/Al Jazeera)

      * Lalibela’s churches are situated in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia, They are located amid a traditional village with circular-shaped dwellings called tukuls, where the people share their huts with their livestock at night.

      * There are two main clusters of churches, one to the north and one to the south of the river Jordan. The 11th church is isolated from the others, but connected by a system of trenches.

      * Legend says when King Lalibela had completed his churches, St George galloped up on a white steed. He was furious with the king for not dedicating a church to him, and the king ordered one more to be built in honour of Ethiopia’s patron saint. The horse left hoof prints on the passage leading to Biete Ghiorgis.

      * Portuguese priest Francisco Alvares visited the churches in 1521 and labelled them a wonder of the world. He wrote in his journal, ‘I weary of writing more about these buildings, because it seems to me that I shall not be believed.’

      * The original function of the site as a pilgrimage place still persists, with the faithful sometimes walking for days or weeks to make their way here.

      * Prior to a church service, a priest swings a censer of frankincense, sending clouds sweet-scented smoke through the air. Lalibela’s churches have been in continuous use since their construction in the 12th century.

      * A priest and pilgrims converse within a church compound. An estimated 40,000 workers were used in the construction of the churches.

      * Biete Medhani Alem is believed to be the largest monolithic church in the world. The churches were not constructed in a traditional way, but rather built from the top down.

      * Nuns pick rock and debris from piles of grain which will then be used to bake the holy bread.

      * A priest sits outside Biete Abba Libanos reading a liturgy book written in Ge’ez, the ancient language of scripture in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

      * Each church has a resident priest, a highly regarded position. This priest shows off the ancient manuscripts still in immaculate condition that are stored inside.

      * This drawing is over 800 years old. It depicts the story of Saint George slaying the dragon alongside an image of the Virgin Mary.

      * Countless holes and cavities in the walls are used by hermits for sleep during festivals. Some have also been used as tombs.

 

Related:

    ማስታወሻ፡

    ቤተ እምነት መከበር ሲገባው፣ የኢትዮጵያ ረዥም ታሪክም ይህንን ሲሆን ያረጋገገጠውና ያቆየንም ልምድ ሆኖ ሳለ፣ ሕወሃት ሃገሪቱን ገና መቆጣጠር እንደጀመረ — በፊልሙ ላይ እንደሚታየው —ሥራውን የጀመረው፣ ታሪካዊውን የላሊበላን መሥቀል በመዝረፍ/ማዘረፍ መሆኑን ስናስታውስ ሃገራችን ፊት የተደቀነውን ችግር ለማስታወስ፣ ይህንን ማስታወሻ ከዚህ የአልጀዚራ ጠንካራ ዘገባ ጋር አብሮ እንዲታይ አያይዘነዋል!

    “የጥቁር ፈርጥ”፡ሁሉም ኢትዮጵያውያን ሊያዩት የሚገባ ኢትዮጵያዊ ፊልም!

 

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