Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 07 March |
Saint of the Day: Sts Perpetua and Felicity
home iconTravel
line break icon

Ethiopia’s amazing churches were considered the “New Jerusalem”

ROCK-HEWN CHURCH, LALIBELA

Jialiang Gao | CC BY SA 3.0

Zelda Caldwell - published on 01/24/18

Pilgrims continue to journey to the famous rock-hewn churches, built in reaction to the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land.

For centuries, Christian pilgrims — and tourists —  have travelled to the mountainous region of northern Ethiopia to visit the 11 spectacular medieval churches carved out of rock.

After Muslim conquests blocked Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land, King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, who ruled Ethiopia in the late 12th century and early 13th century, set out to construct a “New Jerusalem,” which remains a pilgrimage site and place of devotion to this day.

Christianity’s roots in Ethiopia go back to the time of the Apostles, who in the first century A.D. set out to spread the Gospel throughout the world. By the 4th century, it was adopted as the state religion during the reign of the ancient Aksumite emperor Ezana.

The 11 churches, each carved out of a single piece of rock, were described by a Portuguese priest, Francisco Alvares, one of the first Europeans to see the churches as among the world’s great wonders:

“I weary of writing more about these buildings, because it seems to me that I shall not be believed if I write more … I swear by God, in Whose power I am, that all I have written is the truth..”

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches maintain an important role in Ethiopian Christianity. Virtually untouched since they were built, the churches also continue to fulfill their original function, drawing pilgrims on Ethiopian church’s feast days. A community of priests and monks live there and administer to the faithful.

To wander around the churches using this 360-degree photosphere, visit this link.

——-

Tags:
AfricaArchaeologyArchitecture
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
GUARDIAN ANGEL
Philip Kosloski
10 Mysterious things to know about guardian angels
2
tabernacle
Philip Kosloski
5 Important things to notice in a Catholic church
3
POPE AUDIENCE
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Do you know the 3 words that describe God’s style? Pope Fra...
4
Ziggurat of Ur
John Burger
Pope’s trip to Iraq is like a pilgrimage to a Holy Land
5
SAINT JOSEPH AND CHILD JESUS
Philip Kosloski
10 Things you should know about St. Joseph
6
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope calls us to Abraham’s hope: Full text of address in Ur
7
VaticanNews.va
Pope in Iraq: Schedule and key events
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.