Visiting Ancient Rock Churches Around Lalibela, Ethiopia

After you are through visiting the medieval rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia, it is recommended that you visit a few in the countryside.  I’ve visited a total of 5 during my two trips.  Two are located in shallow caves, and 3 are sited adjacent to major rock outcrops.

Visiting these rural churches has a distinct pattern to it.  The routine goes something like this:

  • Pay a nominal entry fee ($5-$10) and wait for an Ethiopian priest.
  • Walk through the church (except for the Holy of Holies room which is reserved for priests) and observe the unique features each church contains.  For some, it is collecting of holy water; for others, it is collecting of holy honey; and in others, it’s the unique artwork (much of it in bad shape).
Rock Vessels for the Collection of Holy Water (Seepage from the Roof of a Cave)

Rock Vessels for the Collection of Holy Water (Seepage from the Roof of a Cave)

  • The priest then gets dressed up for a photograph.
Ethiopian Priest Dressed Up for the Requisite Photograph

Ethiopian Priest Dressed Up for the Requisite Photograph

  • The priest shows off some the unique relics that the church contains.  One of them is almost always a book.
Ethiopian Priest Showing Off an Old Goat-Skin Illustrated Book

Ethiopian Priest Showing Off an Old Goat-Skin Illustrated Book

  • Tip the priest $5

The siting of 2 of the churches is quite spectacular; they are located inside shallow caves.  One of the churches has a large cistern located under the floor;  the other has holy water dripping from the roof of the cave.  The monastic church just outside of Lalibela (not far off the airport road) is somewhat reminiscent of the Anasazi ruins in southwestern America.

This Medieval Monastic Church is Constructed in a Cave

This Medieval Monastic Church is Constructed in a Cave

The churches that are not located in caves have temporary roofs (built on scaffolding) to protect the stone structure from rain and subsequent water erosion.   Unfortunately, the scaffolding hides (or greatly detracts from) their exteriors.

Scaffolding Used to Support a Temporary Roof Over an Ancient Rock-Hewn Rural Ethiopian Church

Scaffolding Used to Support a Temporary Roof Over an Ancient Rock-Hewn Rural Ethiopian Church

Visiting these churches and their adjacent communities is very much like visiting rural Europe during the Middle Ages.  I doubt that religion and life have changed much over the last 1000 years.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Africa, Art, Books, ethiopia, monumental, Religion, Travel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s