Lalibela Education Alternative Project

History of Lalibela

Lalibela is a remote village in the northern part of Ethiopia, perched at 2630 metres in craggy mountains, which is famous for rock- hewn churches.

These are an incredible accomplishment from the 12th Century, made even more astonishing by the lack of any adequate explanation of how they were built, when there is no archaeological evidence of there having been a community large enough to have provided the labour.

Visiting Lalibela is like dropping into a scene in the Old Testament. Donkeys move through the streets, laden with goods brought from the surrounding countryside, among the priests and monks, who are responsible for sustaining and protecting the churches.
"If you wander between the churches in the thin light of morning, when white-robed hermits emerge, Bible in hand, from their cells to bask on the rocks, and the chill highland air is warmed by eucharistic drumbeats and gentle swaying chants, you can't help but feel that you are witnessing a scene that is fundamentally little different to the one that has been enacted here every morning for century upon century" - Philip Briggs, Bradt Travel Guide. 



Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity, still today a place of devotion. They say it's the 8th wonder of the world. It was King Lalibela who builds the 13 rock- hewn churches.  

Like more episodes in the long history of Ethiopia, there are a lot of legends about this King.

One is that his older brother poisoned him and during a three days sleep he was brought to heaven, where he was shown a city of rock-hewn churches, which he replicated.

Others say that he went into exile to Jerusalem and got a vision to create a New Jerusalem. Others tell that the Templars from Europe build it.

 Ever since the first European to describe the rock churches of Lalibela, Francisco Alvarez, came to this holy city between 1521 and 1525, travellers have tried to put into words their experiences. Praising it as a “New Jerusalem”, a “New Golgotha”, the “Christian Citadel in the Mountains of Wondrous Ethiopia.