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A Short Insight on Lalibela, Ethiopia



Lalibela is a city located in Ethiopia that was once called Adefa. The place is particularly known for the high number of churches and monasteries made of volcanic rock. Most of them are quite old, which is what determined UNESCO to place Lalibela on the list of World Heritage Sites. These churches carved in rock are very beautiful, and many people travel here yearly to take part in the celebrations. The customs of the Ethiopian Orthodox are quite unique, which is what draws so many to witness these ceremonies.

Lalibela may be famous for its rock carved religious constructions, but equally amazing are the ones that can be found inside the mountain in the Tigray area. Be aware that the road till there can be quite challenging and only travelers with a bit of physical condition can reach them. The religious sites of worship are carved into the many cliff crevices existent inside the mountains, which contribute to the hassle one needs to endure in order to reach them.

The peak of the city’s prosperity was achieved during the 11th-12th centuries, when a new dynasty started ruling the area. The rulers, called the Zagwe, were Christians and they started building many churches and monasteries to honor their fate. The devoted people contributed to building some of the most beautiful places of worship in all Ethiopia, and one cannot help but notice the resemblance between these holy places and the ones from the Holy Land. Ethiopian Orthodox have their own customs, which is why so many people come here to witness them.

The old rulers were also patrons of arts and literature and, during their time, the cultural life of the area knew great improvement. They are also responsible for many of the beautiful churches carved in volcanic rock that still can be found around the old capital. It was during those times that the name Adefa was changed into Lalibela, to honor the king that made all this possible. King Lalibela is thought to be the one to have erected the most important places of worship in Adefa, during the 12th century.

Until the ruling of the Zagwe kings, the religion used to be isolated from Christianity and Orthodoxy. It took many centuries until Egypt was finally overcome by Arabs, which led to important changes in the area. Still, a thin thread was connecting the Coptic Church of Egypt with the Christianity which allowed this particular belief to become very popular in this area. Between the 7th and the 12th century, the Ethiopian Orthodox church became stronger and stronger, its beliefs focusing mainly on the Old Testament and its teachings, as well as on the Judaic references.

Because of this particularity, the Ethiopian Orthodox church knew a different evolution from the entire Christianity and Orthodoxy. Because of the Egyptian influences, with the Copts, which were also monotheists, the religious beliefs became rather particular for the area.



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