King Lalibela

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King Lalibela (1189 to 1229)

12 Comments · King Lalibela biography

Gebre Mesqel Lalibela (also called “Lalibela”, which means “the bees recognize his sovereignty” in Old Agaw language) is the most famous and marveled of all the Zagwe kings reigned in Ethiopia.
He is well known for building the eleven famous rock-hewn churches in his capital city, known as Roha. The eleven rock-hewn churches are:

• Madhané Alam
• Maryam
• Denagel
• Sellasé
• Golgotha
• Mika’él
• Amanu’él
• Marquréwos
• Abba Libanos
• Gabr’él-Rufa’él, and
• Giyorgis
King Lalibela was born at either Adefa or Roha (it was later named Lalibela after him). Lalibela’s life is full of legends.

It is alleged that upon his birth, he was surrounded by a cloud of bees. Therefore, his mother gave him the name Lalibela, which means, “the bees are aware of his sovereignty.” Also according to legend, he was told by God “to build ten monolithic churches (Henze 51).”

According to the legend, he went into exile due to the hostility of his uncle Tatadim and his brother king Kedus Harbe, and was almost poisoned to death by his half-sister.

King Lalibela is said to have seen Jerusalem in his dream and then decided to build a new Jerusalem as his capital in response to the capture of old Jerusalem by Muslims in 1187.

Many features of his town have Biblical names – even the town’s river is known as the River Jordan, graves called Adam and Jesus Christ. This effort of the King shows his attempt to recreate Jerusalem, the Holy City, in his city, for Jerusalem had been captured by Muslims and pilgrimage for Ethiopian Christians had become complicated.

Unlike the other Zagwe kings, a considerable amount of written material has endured about his reign, besides the Gadla Lalibela (later Lalibela).

The Italian scholar Carlo Conti Rossini has edited and published some of the land grants that survived from his reign. After his death, Lalibela was buried in Golgotha (Pankhurst 49-52).

Keywords: Roha, King Lalibela, rock-hewn churches, Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, Agaw, Adefa, Kedus Harbe, Tatadim, River Jordan, Jerusalem, Madhané Alam, Maryam, Denagel, Sellasé, Golgotha, Mika’él, Amanu’él, Marquréwos, Abba Libanos, Gabr’él-Rufa’él, and Giyorgis, Golgotha


12 Comments so far ↓

  • dude

    i need more information for a school project
    i need 2 important facts!!!!!!! i cant find any in your website

  • Barbara

    I was just there. The King was assassinated, and came back to life three days later. While in heaven God told him to build the churches. The building took 26 years. The people worked in the day, and the angels worked at night. Hope this helps.

  • sash quatch

    this suckss im working on a project and this doesnt help!

  • Eyasu

    There are some of us who are still skeptical as to who built the churches of Lalibla, but among the facts which attributed the work to the then indgneous people of the country,is other similar churches built by King Gebremeskel of Axum.The king built the churches of Bilbala Giorgis, Sarzina Michael and Bilbala Kirkos about eight miles west of the town Lalibela.althogh the churches are monolithic and carved out of the same sedimentary rock, there is a gap in the design and archtect as the difference of 500 hundred years itself could well be an evidence.durning the reign of King Gebremeskel simlar churches were simeltneously built in and around general, these 5th century churches, as foundation and basis for the contemporary and meticulously carved churches of Lalibela-were built by the indgneous people , still reflecting the continuation of the civilization as endemic as they remain sofar and the legacy being inherited.
    The sole thing which often times occupy my thoughts, is the fact that why Ethiopian historians, archealogists and scholars did nothing on one hand, and other western historians who paid serious attention on these churches missed this part of the justification.

  • Faitfull reader

    When it is said that Lalibela, the New Jerusalem, what it was meant was that every thing designed in this beautiful monolithic churches is the replica of Jerusalem; you have the Jordan river, gholegota,the tomb of Adam(symbol),Bitania,debrezeyit,Keraniyo,you name it,the crusade could not allow the Abyssinian people to go over to Jerusalem and pray so that KIng Lalibela built the churches and made them as replacement for the Jerusalem in Israel. Ahadu AB kidus, Ahadu Wold Kidus, Ahadu wuetu Menfeskidus, Kidus.the one and only fater is holy, the one and only son(christ) is holly, and the one and only holy gost is holly.Amen!!!!!!!

  • Faitfull reader

    Althogh I share some of your ideas about the agaw people and King Lalibela, I differ with you with what you mentioned about Amhara and Yikunuamlak. Amhara and the language Amaharic had nevee existed before the Zagwe dynasty,and thus Amaharic was the secret language of the army of Jan(Zan) Seyoum, who is blieved to the first king of The Zagwe dynasty so that eversince then gradually, this language becomes the language of the people of Lasta and wag and soon extending to the south and west of the region wich later developed.Amharic, being born in the higlands of Bugna-lalibela, is which was made by the hive of Lasta according to Aleka kidanewold Kifle. The Zagwe dynasty brought the throne from Axum and lat alone yikunuamlak, his great great grand father could never exist at that time,Yikunuamlak just took the throne from Yitbarek, the son of King Lalibela at about 1270, and the time between this occurence and the time whereby the Zagwe dynasty broght the throne from AXumhad about 333 years in between.Amharic and Amhara are evolved from the great dyanasty of Zagwe and the Agaw people.there was never ever existed a language called Amharic before the Zagwe dynastty.

  • marcose

    where it found???

  • Eyasu

    Octrober 23, 2011
    Yikunuamilak was never the founder of zagwe dynasty nor was he chief of the army in the last Axumite empire; instead he was the descendant of Anbesawudem; in fact Anbesawudem was a king in Axum at about the 8th century and an abrupt invasion of Yodit, who emerged from the higlands of Shire and Gondar made him flee south wards to the highlands of Sayint and Ttegulet; he couldn’t get back the throne,but was residing there as royal of the Axumite, and therefore, it is at this point whereby Yikunuamilak as descendant of Axumites became loyal and server in the palace of the last king of Zagwe, in the time of Yitibarek Lalibela. around this tiking Yitbarek, the son of Saint Lalibela.the amharic language was created and was commonly dpokrn in and around the vicinity of Lasta fast forward spreading south and west wards, yikunuamlak, as descendant of the Axzumite, got the chance to become the king of central Ethiopia with the help of the monk Abune Teklehaimanot.

  • Jerry Wehde

    Look the only question one should be asking about this legend , what was gods reason for having this king who possesed the Ark build these churches? Thet answer is for me to find them and learn from them for these symbols are key to the machine that is the ark I know this because I retro engeneered it from these signs and symbols , and it is the ark and so much more…. I can proove this beyound despute…. this is no prank , no tall tale , all though it is the greatest tale yet to be told and it will . You challenge this me an attemp to contact me… and I will show you these things.

  • yosef

    Huleme Letalaku Egziabher Keber Mesgana Yhune Amen

  • kassahun

    please study deeply about the ethiopian orthodox tewahedo church

  • kassahun demissie

    The Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela were cut out of a living rock during the time of King Lalibela, who ruled Ethiopia from his capital Roha, now Lalibela. The churches are 11 in number, located in three groups. The first groups of Churches are, Bete Medhane Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Meskel Bete Dengil, BeteGolgota, and Bete Michael. The second groups of churches are Bete Gebriel and Rufael, Bete Amanuel, Bete Markorios, connected by a long underground tunnel, Bete Abba Libanos. The last church is Bete Giorgis, a free standing church with architectural elegance and perfection.

    The churches were curved in the 12th and 13th Centuries. It is believed that the carving of all the churches took some 24 years. Archaeologists say it would have taken the work of 40,000 work force to carve these churches, courtyards and caverns out of a living rock.

    Described by most travel writers as the eighth Wonder, the churches were registered under the list of World Heritage Site in 1978.

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