The eighth Wonder of the World
Lalibela is located in the northern parts of Ethiopia with an elevation of 2,600m above sea level, the city and its churches are considered as one of the wonders of the world and have been declared World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Is one of the most important holy cities in Ethiopia by its famous rock-hewn churches.
After the decline of the Axumite Empire around the 11th century the Zagwe Dynasty took power and shifted the capital south wards to Roha, the present day of Lalibela.
In the second half of the12th century, a prince was born into the heart of the Zagwe Dynasty. He was the youngest of the ruling dynasty and the son of Zan-Siyum. According to legend, his mother observed one day that his cradle was covered by a swarm of bees. Seeing this as a sign of his future greatness, she exclaimed, “Lalibela” which in Agew language means “the bees recognize his sovereignty.” Henceforth he was known by this name. King Lalibela excavated the rock hewn churches in the end of the 12th c and the beginning of 13th c. on the last mountains at Roha, after the death of king Lalibela the ruler credited with the constriction of the churches and renamed the town Lalibela
In Lalibela there are 11 churches carves out of solid red granite rock, which are excavated to represent “New Ethiopian Jerusalem”. The churches are divided into two groups according to their location on both sides of the river called Jordan or Yordanos. In addition there is a single church situated in the west apart from the two groups, Bete Giorgis, it is the most elaborate and famous church excavated in the shape of a perfect Greek cross.
Some of the churches are Bete Medehane Alem, home to Lalibela Cross and believed to be the largest monolithic church in the world, Bete Mariam (house of the Virgin Mary), Bete Golgotha, Bete Amanuel, Abba Libanos and Bete Michael. According to legend, anyone, who enters Bete Golgotha, will go to heaven as it contains Lalibela's tomb and personal treasures. It also contains a recumbent figure of Christ. The churches are even today still used for services and celebrations among the local believers and on big festivals like Fasika (Easter) or Timket (Epiphany), many pilgrims come to worship in this holy site.
Outside of the town center of Lalibela, more interesting churches and monasteries can be found only a short way out of town. Naakuto Leab. Monastery was built up in a half- open natural cave by the last ruler of the Zagwe dynasty. On the slope of Mt. Abune Yosef (4190m), the high Mountain just behind Lalibela, Asheton Mariyam church can be visited by riding on a mule's back and trekking, offering amazing views. In a 45 minutes drive, the rock church of Geneta Mariam and the monastery of Yemrehanna Kristos can be visited from Lalibela.