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Prehistoric Scratchpad

11 monolithic churches carved from rock in Lalibela, Ethiopia, a new Jerusalem. Church of St. George is the most prominent.


1000 AD[]

Some theories say that some of these churches could have been build and used for other purposes and may have been around at this time. Tradition says this was the end of Queen Gudit's reign.

Earlier History[]

Axum adopted Christianity under Ezana (320-360 AD)

One theory says that the churches of Merkorios, Gabriel-Rufael, and Danagel were initially carved out of the rock as fortifications or other palace structures in the waning days of the Axumite Kingdom. This kingdom ended in 940 AD.

Later History[]

Lalibela is dubbed the "New Jerusalem" and 11 monolithic churches are created in the 13th Century. The most prominent church St. George was the last built one.

Modern History[]


Lalibela Monolithic Churches Web Pages[]

Lalibela Monolithic Churches In the News[]



Ethiopia's monolithic churches, religious sites and Orthodox Christians

Documentary on monolithic churches.


Ethiopia in the footsteps of the first Christians

A visit to an Ethiopian monastary going into the history of Ethiopian Christianity.


The Northern Group:

  • Biete Medhane Alem (House of the Saviour of the World), home to the Lalibela Cross.
  • Biete Maryam (House of Miriam/House of Mary), possibly the oldest of the churches, and a replica of the Tombs of Adam and Christ.[1]
  • Biete Golgotha Mikael (House of Golgotha Mikael), known for its arts and said to contain the tomb of King Lalibela)
  • Biete Meskel (House of the Cross)
  • Biete Denagel (House of Virgins)

The Western Group:

  • Biete Giyorgis (Church of Saint George), thought to be the most finely executed and best preserved church

The Eastern Group:

  • Biete Amanuel (House of Emmanuel), possibly the former royal chapel
  • Biete Qeddus Mercoreus (House of St Mercoreos/House of St Mark), which may be a former prison
  • Biete Abba Libanos (House of Abbot Libanos)
  • Biete Gabriel-Rufael (House of the angels Gabriel, and Raphael) possibly a former royal palace, linked to a holy bakery.
  • Biete Lehem (Bethlehem Hebrew: בֵּית לֶחֶם, House of Holy Bread).

Virtual Tourism[]