Ethiopian Treasures


Pictures of Saint George church, Bieta Medhane Alem church, priests holding crosses and the monastic complex of roch-hewn churches, Lalibela Queen Gudit was born in Lasta (Agew region) near Lalibela. Her father was a Felasha (Beta Israel or Jewish) king called Gideon. It is said that at that time the Felashas refused to pay taxes to the Aksumite kingdom and the king of Aksum sent troops to the Felasha regions and forced them to pay taxes. The Aksumites raids frustrated the Felashas. In tenth century, Queen Gudit united the Felashas, and marched on Aksum to try to remove Christianity and the Aksumite dynasty from Ethiopia once and for all. She destroyed Aksum, overthrew and killed the King and Princes ending the Aksumite kingdom. This led to the rise of the "Zagwe Dynasty". Queen Gudit is remembered as evil and a destroyer of churches. This period of history is known in Ethiopian tradition as "end of the first millennium".

Following Queen Gudit's campaign against Aksum, Marara Teklehaimanot formally founded the "Zagwe Dynasty" in 1137. He became the first Zagwe King and ruled from Lasta. In 1270, the Zagwe Dynasty ended and Yekuno Amlak took the throne and restored the "Solomonic Dynasty".

Lalibela stands on soft red volcanic rock and was originally known as Roha. It was later renamed Lalibela when King Lalibela was credited with building the rock-hewn churches there in the twelfth century. Lalibela is now regarded as one of the greatest Ethiopian architectural wonders and is ranked the eighth most incredible historical site in the world by UNESCO. Aksum and Lalibela have in common architectural and stone works, which illustrate Ethiopian civilisation at great length.

In Lalibela there are 11 churches cut out of solid red volcanic rock, which are constructed to represent Jerusalem. The churches are divided into Northern and Eastern groups of churches by a rock-cut channel (river) called Yordannos (Jordan River) and connected by narrow and deep passages. Bieta Medhane Alem is the largest and most impressive monolithic church. Of all the churches, Bieta Giyorgis (Saint George) is particularly stunning and beautiful, situated apart from the other churches to the west, intricately carved into the shape of a cross. All the churches are still used as places of worship.


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