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:
Standing on the brow of the Bet Giyorgis compound:
Entering Bet Giyorgis… The passageway carved into the rock that leads down to the church:
When one has passed through this opening in the rock, one arrives at a fork and can turn either left or right:
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:
Should one turn right at the fork, one will enter through here into the courtyard of Bet Giyorgis church:
This pool in the courtyard is still used for baptisms:
Some of the cavities in the walls surrounding the church contain mummified corpses:
A view of the church from the ground:
The top of a 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.