Since I did not send travel notes from my visit to Ethiopia last year, i thought I would share some of the highlights. For me, they are fantastic and memorable! It made me want to visit Ethiopia again and again. I actually began salivating to do so a few years ago when I watched a documentary of ancient Christian sites in Ethiopia, never dreaming that I would see and experience them.
My primary purpose in visiting Ethiopia was the same as this year, to research a Pentecostal group. You already saw my pics from this year. After my work last year, I inquired into the location of the sites of the ancient Christian empire. To begin, my first stop was Lalibela, a rural town about an hour's flight north of Addis Ababa.
Lalibela is the home of 11 'monolithic' or rock-hewn churches (monolithic means, cut out of one solid piece of stone). Estimated period is 11th-12th centuries, and speculated to be after and in response to the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem (1187). Why? Lalibela is modeled and named after Jerusalem...even the river that flows through the centre of the town is called the Jordan River. Other than that, the 'why' is locked up in the past. Rock churches were actually built in various parts of the country, most in the northern region (over 120) but even some have been found south of Addis Ababa. Some were apparently built in the 7th to 9th centuries, and others much later. I read that it was the Portuguese in the 16th century who were the first foreigners to lay their eyes on these phenomenal marvels.
The largest rock-hewn church in the world is Bete Medhane Alem, in Lalibela. But the Church of St. George (cruciform and well preserved) is the jewel.
Here are a few pics from these two churches, including the interior. The icons are always so colourful and stunning.