the ROCK HEWN
CHURCHES
of LALIBELA
Ethiopia

the ROCK HEWN CHURCHES of LALIBELA Ethiopia



Lalibela


Bet Abba Libanos

Fiverlocker/CC BY-SA 2.0


An old town in the remote mountainous region of Ethiopia was renamed Lalibela, after a late 12th to early 13th century king. He wanted to build a Christian city — a new Jerusalem — as his capital and even renamed the river as the River Jordan. The history and legends are uncertain, but he may have built at least the first of 13 churches, complete with connecting tunnels and catacombs, all carved from solid, seamless red volcanic rock over a dark gray basalt. Four churches are free-standing, attached only at the base, while the rest have carved facades. The hard work of carving solid rock is said to have been aided by angels, who joined the laborers by day and worked all night. A traditional village surrounds the church structures; of the 6,000 inhabitants, 1,500 are priests.

The fourth episode of “Patrimonito’s World Heritage Adventure” cartoon series shows local communities and young people at Lalibela.

raphael

Raphael Fauveau (via Fotopedia)/CC BY-NC-SA 3.0


lalibela

Stefan Gara/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Artifacts


Christianity was established early in Ethiopia. Between 330 C.E. and 550 C.E. Syrian influences brought the use of ritual objects to the religion. Today, every member of the clergy carries a handcross at all times. These crosses, made from a copper alloy, are used for processions and festivals in Lalibela. When carried, cloth streamers are attached to the brackets at the base of the crosses. The priests and the crosses are sometimes sheltered by canopies of silk and velvet, a tradition that is stlll very much alive today.

cross

Processional Cross

15th century
2004-7-8
National Museum of African Art
Smithsonian Institution

cross

Processional Cross

14th-15th century
97-19-1
National Museum of African Art
Smithsonian Institution

Cross pendants have been worn for centuries by Orthodox Ethiopians as a reflection of their faith. European coins were sometimes melted down to make the pendants.

These are from mid-20th century and are worn by people around the country.

Pendant Crosses

Ethiopian Orthodox
Silver alloy
mid 20th century
Smithsonian Institution
Pendant cross 2004-7-26, Pendant cross 2004-7-35, Pendant cross 2004-7-38, Pendant cross 2004-7-39, Pendant cross 2004-7-42, Pendant cross 2004-7-43

lalibela priests

Stefan Gara (via Fotopedia)/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


lalibela priests

A. Davey/CC BY 2.0


priest with cross

Guistino/CC BY 2.0

Protection


Beyond the structural well-being of the churches and the usual consequences of rain, wind, and temperature changes on buildings, these sites are affected by development and urbanization. UNESCO effectively advocates for the protection and renovation of the traditional circular earthen houses surrounding the churches. Lalibela is part of the World Heritage Earthen Architecture Program (WHEAP). Everyone involved, from local people to international organizations, works to ensure a balance between growth and preservation.

Here are three-dimensional animated images of the buildings, which were scanned with lasers to create these models. A project of the World Monuments Fund, in collaboration with the Zamani Initiative of the University of Cape Town.

Zamani Research Group, University of Cape Town.
www.zamaniproject.org

Hear what people around the world have to say about these important sites. Have you visited any, or would you like to? Add your voice to the conversation through the website or download the app from iTunes or Google Play.


iPhone


Android

Download the Stories of World Heritage App


Discover ten stories from UNESCO’s World Heritage List: The list of the most outstanding natural and cultural sites in the world.


Hear what locals and visitors have to say about the beauty and importance of 10 of the world’s most outstanding natural and cultural sites from UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Have you visited any of them, or would you like to? Add your voice to the conversation through this app!

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the 1972 UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and to further its objectives, the Smithsonian and UNESCO have partnered to produce the Stories of World Heritage app and website worldheritage.si.edu. Uniting 189 countries in the collective protection of our shared outstanding and universal heritage, this Convention is the most successful legal international conservation instrument in existence, and the only one which links together, in a single document, the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties.

The Convention is a vital instrument for concrete action in preserving threatened sites and endangered ecosystems. We hope you will support its important work by adding your voice to the Stories of World Heritage project!


Speak

Have you visited a World Heritage site? Have you ever wanted to? We encourage you to share your stories and thoughts about these incredible and important cultural landmarks.

Listen

Listen to people from around the world as they share their recollections, thoughts, and experiences about these World Heritage sites. Then add your own stories.

Download for iPhone

Share and listen on the go. No matter where you are in the world, you can participate in the conversation through our iPhone app. Download from iTunes today.


iTunes App Store

Download for Android

Share and listen on the go. No matter where you are in the world, you can participate in the conversation through our Android app. Download from Google Play today.


Google Play

Download the Stories of World Heritage App


Discover ten stories from UNESCO’s World Heritage List: The list of the most outstanding natural and cultural sites in the world.


Hear what locals and visitors have to say about the beauty and importance of 10 of the world’s most outstanding natural and cultural sites from UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Have you visited any of them, or would you like to? Add your voice to the conversation through this app!

Download for iPhone

Share and listen on the go. No matter where you are in the world, you can participate in the conversation through our iPhone app. Download from iTunes today.


iTunes App Store

Download for Android

Share and listen on the go. No matter where you are in the world, you can participate in the conversation through our Android app. Download from Google Play today.


Google Play


glyphicons_390_facebook glyphicons_392_twitter