The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia | Day 2 (10 Photos)

For Day 1, Click Here.

After a morning of exploring the Yemrehana Krestos Cave Church, we returned to Lalibela and continued exploring the remaining rock-hewn churches.  This included the one church in the western group, and another five churches in the eastern group.


1: This is Bete Giyorgis (The Church of St. George). This is one of those times that makes you happy to lug around a 16mm wide angle lens. I got pretty close to the ledge to take this. It’s a good thing I don’t have vertigo. This church is by far the most famous of the rock-hewn churches, and for good reason. It’s cruciform shape and remarkable condition are second to none. The drainage system was ahead of its time, and eliminated the need for any protection measures required by others in the area.

2: From this angle, you can get a better idea of the cross shape of the church. This is a popular camera angle. You can almost picture what the volcanic rock would have looked like prior to the 12-meter high church being carved out of it.

3: An open crypt is carved out of the rock wall across from Bete Giyorgis. The mummified legs of a pilgrim emerge haphazardly from the entrance, along with some wood scraps. I was told this is one of several pilgrims who came here voluntarily to be interred in this crypt.

4: Biete Abba Libanos (House of Abbot Libanos) is unique among the group, as it appears to grow out of the surrounding rock.

5: Biete Amanuel (House of Emmanuel) draws much of its architectural features from the Yemrehanna Kristos church several kilometers away. The rock carving attempts to mimic the wooden beams and plastered rock of the ancient church. You can see this theme repeated among many churches, with the simulated posts at the corners of the windows being the most prominent.

6: A security guard posted outside of Biete Amanuel graciously agreed to pose in front of his guard house for this photo. I thought his pose and facial expression looked very natural.

7: You have to cross a metal-reinforced bridge to access Biete Gabriel-Rufael (House of the angels Gabriel and Raphael). This particular church is carved deep into the rock. You can see two of the three circular wells at the bottom of the moat, where holy water was drawn from. The lower levels of the church and the wells had access cut off hundreds of years ago due to safety concerns following earthquake damage.

8: Inside Biete Gabriel-Rufael, a napping priest leans on his prayer stick next to some Ethiopian style Christian art depicting Mary and the Baby Jesus, and the archangel Gabriel (I think).

9: As your eyes adjust to the lighting, you can make out some ancient art on the stone columns. It’s tragic to see this historical artwork so deteriorated.

10: Across the moat from Biete Gabriel-Rufael is a guards sleeping quarters. It includes a traditional bed made from thatched leather, and a direct view of the church itself.

Thanks for dropping by!  I hope that you enjoyed my travel photos and commentary, and will return for more travel content in the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *