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Ethiopia is one of the earliest nations to adopt Christianity, in the early half of the fourth century, with its historic roots dating to the time of the Apostles.

The Lalibela Churches in Ethiopia conjures up a mythical appeal. Many churches and monasteries are perched on mountain sides overlooking steep gorges. And indeed, nowhere else on the planet is there larger monolithic churches, like The Lalibela Churches.

The Lalibela Churches, were built by King Lalibela in the 13th century, as an African alternative to the Holy City of Jerusalem. King Lalibela, revered as a saint, is said to have seen Jerusalem, and then attempted to build a New Jerusalem as his capital, in Ethiopia. At the time, Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem were halted by Muslim conquests. Fortunately, the Holy City of Lalibela became a substitute for the holy places of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and as such, had a considerable influence on Ethiopia’s Christianity.

Contrary to modern belief, Lalibela’s eleven churches were not built from a brick, but rather carved from living rock, sometimes residing underground. The blocks of rock were intricately hewn with doors, windows and drainage systems, all carved from the original stone structure.

King Lalibela’s motivation for this method of construction, and the exact techniques of carving, are not entirely clear, it is said to have taken 24 years to complete the impressive designs. Legend has it that while the king worked with local Ethiopian artisans and architects by day, angels took over and helped them complete the task by night.

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