King Lalibela

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Entries from November 5th, 2007

Bet Danaghel (House of the Virgin Martyrs)

20,406 Comments · Rock-hewn churches

Extending out at the south of the Bet Maryam (The house of Mary) courtyard is the little chapel of Bet Danaghel 8.6 m. length and 3.6 m. height. It’s one of the rock-hewn church in Lalibela.

This small chapel is linked with one of the most fascinating legends of Lalibela. According to a legend recorded in the Ethiopian Book of Martyrs, the chapel was contracted in honor of 50 Christian maiden nuns murdered by the Roman ruler Julian the Apostate in the 4th century. 

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Bet Medhane Alem (House of the Redeemer of the World)

1,986 Comments · Rock-hewn churches


Bet Medhane Alem is the largest monolithic rock-hewn church in the world, measuring 11.5m in height and covering an area of almost 800m2.

A plain building, held up by 36 pillars on the inside and another 36 around the outside, Bet Medhane Alem has a classical dignity reminiscent of an Ancient Greek temple, a resemblance that has led some experts to imagine it was modeled on the original St Mary Zion Church built by King Ezana at Axum.

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The Zagwe dynasty

11,102 Comments · Zagwe dynasty

The Zagwe dynasty ruled Ethiopia from the end of the Kingdom of Axum at an unsure date in the 9th or 10th century to 1270.

It is noted to derive its name from the Agaw people, meaning “Agaw” or literally “of Agaw” (ze meaning “of” in Ge’ez). Its famous king was Gebre Mesqel Lalibela (King Lalibela), who is accountable for the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.

David Buxton has affirmed that the area under the direct rule of the Zagwe kings probably embraced:

• the highlands of modern Eritrea 
• the whole of Tigrai
• extending southwards to Waag
• Lasta
• Damot (Wallo province) and 
• westwards towards Lake Tana (Beghemdir)

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The Holy City of Lalibela and its legend

1,042 Comments · Legend of Lalibela

 From the time when the first European, Francisco Alvarez (visited the holy city between 1521 and 1525), travelers named the rock churches of Lalibela as:

• A “New Jerusalem”
• A “New Golgotha”
• The “Christian Citadel in the Mountains of Wondrous Ethiopia”

The Zagwe dynasty had come to authority in the eleventh century, one hundred years after Queen Judith (also called Gudit), a woman warrior had led her tribes up from the Semein Mountains to demolish Axum (the capital of the ancient Ethiopian empire in the north).

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