Ethiopia / Places We Go

Bet Giyorgis, Lalibela

Resting all on its own, south and west of the northwestern and southeastern groups of churches, is what is perhaps Lalibela’s most interesting church, Bet Giyorgis.

Representing the apogee of the rock-hewn tradition, the Bet Giyorgis is the most visually perfect church in Lalibela – a 15m-high three-tiered plinth in the shape of a Greek cross.

Inside, light flows in from the windows and illuminates the ceiling’s large crosses. There are also two 800-year-old olive-wood boxes inside; one is rumored to have been carved by King Lalibela himself. Inside the box is a crucifix, which allegedly was made with gold brought from King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.

A view down into Bet Giyorgis:

A view down into Bet Giyorgis

Another view down inside Bet Giyorgis

Standing on the brow of the Bet Giyorgis compound:

Around the top of Bet Giyorgis

Entering Bet Giyorgis… The passageway carved into the rock that leads down to the church:

Passage down into Bet Giyorgis

When one has passed through this opening in the rock, one arrives at a fork and can turn either left or right:

Entering Bet Giyorgis

If one chooses to turn left, they will be brought to this cave containing a spring filled with holy water. Sounds somewhat appealing, huh?

The reality is that it is a dank hole in the wall (literally) and the “spring” is fed by a rusty pipe carrying in the precious “holy water” which appears to be anything but:

Holy Water at Bet Giyorgis

Should one turn right at the fork, one will enter through here into the courtyard of Bet Giyorgis church:

The entrance into the churchyard of Bet Giyorgis

This pool in the courtyard is still used for baptisms:

The pool in front is still used for baptisms! Bet Giyorgis

Some of the cavities in the walls surrounding the church contain mummified corpses:

Clefts and niches in Bet Giyorgis

A view of the church from the ground:

View up Bet Giyorgis

The top of a hill overlooking Bet Giyorgis:

Top of hill overlooking Bet Giyorgis

The locals believe the following story about Bet Giyorgis and Lalibela:

Just as King Lalibela was finishing off his series of churches, he was suddenly paid an unexpected visit. Astride a white horse and decked out in full armor came Ethiopia’s patron saint, George. However, the saint turned out to be severely pissed off: not one of the churches had been dedicated to him.

Profusely apologetic, Lalibela promised to make amends by immediately building him the most beautiful church of all.

4 thoughts on “Bet Giyorgis, Lalibela

  1. “Inside the box is a crucifix, which allegedly was made with gold brought from King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.”

    Did you see the crucifix? My hunch is that if it existed, it was ripped of hundreds of years ago. gh

  2. Pingback: The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia – The Southeastern Group « The Velvet Rocket

  3. Pingback: The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia « The Velvet Rocket

  4. Pingback: The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela – The Southeastern Group … | Viviana Web site

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