We left our hotel this morning at 4:30 for an early morning flight to Lalibela, a town in northern Ethiopia, known for its monolithic rock churches. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian.
When we arrived we were met by our guide Terry who had been our guide two years ago during our first visit. After checking in to our amazing hotel, the Mountainview Lodge, we had the morning free so Laura and I went for a walk in the neighborhood near our hotel. It wasn’t long before we had lots of children parading with us through the narrow streets.
After lunch we visited the first group of rock-hewn churches. During the reign of Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela who ruled Ethiopia in the late 12th century and early 13th century, is said to have seen Jerusalem and then attempted to build a new Jerusalem as his capital. The great rock-hewn churches of Lalibela were not built with the help of the Knights Templar; abundant evidence exists to show that they were produced solely by medieval Ethiopian civilization. The most amazing of the 13 churches is the Church of St. George which is carved nearly 50 feet deep into a solid hillside of rock and has been referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.