Lalibela Used to be called Roha. Amhara Ethnic division Population is almost only Eritrean Orthodox Christian Population - 14,668
Lalibela as a sacred space 11 rock churches, hewn out of volcanic rock in the 12 th and 13 th centuries 4 are monolithic* and the rest are semi-monolithic. 350 priests, 250 deacons, 450 monks, 400 students work, study and live there. * Webster’s Dictionary defines Monolithic as “cast as a single piece”.
Bete Giyorgis Bete Maryam Bete Amanu’élBete Marquréwos
Bete Gabr’él-Rufa’él Bete Abba Libanos Bete Golgotha Bete Madhané Alam
The History of the Pilgrimage to Lalibela - Lalibela, is the central location for pilgrimages in Ethiopia, aside from the holy city of Aksum. - Named after the holy saint, Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, the city is the site for both Ethiopian Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox churches. During the twelfth and thirteenth century, saint and king, Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, went to Roha, now Lalibela. During this trip Gebre said he saw Jerusalem, and attempted to build a new Jerusalem. A Jerusalem closer to the people - a Jerusalem that was local for the people of Ethiopia and other surrounding cultures. - It did not take just one emperor to build the ‘New Jerusalem’, but a whole dynasty, the Zagwe Dynasty. Throughout the whole Zagwe Dynasty, they built eleven churches out of solid rock. -Today, the iconic reason for going on the pilgrimage, is to visit the Ethiopian Jerusalem, or to Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, the ‘New Jerusalem’
What does the pilgrimage entail? Being one of the eighth wonders of the world, Lalibela is the site for both Ethiopian and Coptic Orthodox churches. During the holy days, pilgrims visit all eleven churches. House of Emmanuel, House of Mercurios, Abba Libanos and House of Gabriel, are the four most visited out of the eleven churches. Taking a majority of the day, walking through the churches gives the pilgrim the sense of spirituality. The churches each have unique fixtures and relics that are prayed to and adored. The House of Golgotha, for example, has the tomb of Gebre Mesqel Lalibela. During holy days, thousands of pilgrims visit the tomb paying homage to the saint of the city. Each pilgrim comes to the eleven churches, to find much more than a tourist attraction. They go to the churches in hope for a savior, or a miracle.
Most people who go on the pilgrimage are Orthodox Christians. - The number of participants has increased from 14,000 to 18,000 in two years. - Some are just people who are coming to sight see. Some are priests and others are people who are coming for other religious reasons. The number of tourists has also risen. - Half the tourists are from the US and Europe. - There are 60 travel agencies in the area including Lalibela's own hotel. Pilgrims
Why do they go? Historically: – Eight centuries ago, churches were carved out of living rock, and people all over the world came to see these wonders. – The rock churches were made out of the mass of red volcanic tufa (the volcanic rock), and soon many Christian civilizations were made alongside them in order to get closer to the Lord and be with other people of the same religion and worship together. Contemporary: – Visitors come to see the distinctive churches built out of solid rock from many years ago. - Ethiopian Orthodox Christians make the pilgrimage to become closer to God.
The Legend King Lalibela (1181-1221) was poisoned by his brother when he was young. God took him to Heaven and told him to build churches. Lalibela brought in Indian, Muslim and Egyptian workers to built during the day. Angels continued work at night Orthodox Christians come to visit a place “commissioned” by God. They feel closer to God because God visited King Lalibela in this sacred city.
The New Jerusalem Ethiopian Orthodox Christians could no longer make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem because Muslims had taken the city. Instead, they made a pilgrimage to Lalibela. Pilgrims believed they would be able to reach God at Lalibela because he had originally spoken to King Lalibela and because Lalibela was "the New Holy City". God would surely be close to them at the city that takes the place of Jerusalem.
Ethiopian Orthodox Christians have been coming to Lalibela for 800 years. There are over 1000 priests and deacons that hold services much like the ones held 800 years ago. To this day processions are held, pilgrims, priests and locals fast and priests sing and dance. On holidays large festivals are held, like the celebration of Timkat (the Epiphany) and the celebration of Christmas. Religion in the City
An “Island of Christianity in a sea of Islam” Elisabeth Hect calls Ethiopia an “Island of Christianity in a sea of Islam”. Much of Northern Africa is Muslim. Ethiopia is one of the few countries with many Orthodox Christians. Lalibela is a site where the Orthodox Christians in Africa can go to worship with people of their own faith. Proximity to God Lalibela is 8600 feet above sea-level. Its mountaintop location gives it a close proximity to God, leading many Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to believe that if they are at Lalibela, they will be closer to God.
“That night, pilgrims jammed the church shoulder to shoulder and thronged the surrounding hills. To begin the Mass, priests chanted and rattled sistras, palm-size instruments from Old Testament times, and the celebration continued through the night. At sunrise, the church emptied. More than 100 priests climbed the rocky steps to the rim of the pit overlooking the church and formed a line that snaked to the very edge of the drop. They wore white turbans, carried golden scarves and had red sashes stitched into the hems of their white robes. Several deacons began beating large drums, and the priests began to sway in unison, rattling their sistras, then crouching in a wavy line to the beat and rising again—King David's dance, the last of the Christmas ceremonies. In the courtyard below, two dozen priests formed a tight circle with two drummers in the center and began chanting a hymn to the priests above, who responded in kind. "The courtyard priests represent the world's people, and the priests high above represent the angels," a priest told me. "Their singing is a symbol of the unity between heaven and earth." On they went for two hours, their movements and voices swelling in intensity. Many of those high above slipped into ecstatic trances, closing their eyes as they swayed.” - Paul Raffaele in Smithsonian Magazine