King Lalibela

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The Holy City of Lalibela and its legend

8 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).

The legend around the founder of this Holy City says that the Queen of Sheba gave birth to Menelik, who became the first King of Ethiopia. The handmaid of the Queen, too, gave birth to a son whose father was King Solomon, and her son was the ancestor of the Zagwe dynasty.

The Zagwe kings governed the country until the thirteenth century, when a well-known priest, Tekla Haymanot, convinced them to renounce in favor of a descendant of the old Axumite Solomonic dynasty.

Nevertheless, according to legend before the throne of Ethiopia was re-established to its lawful rulers, upon command of God and with the help of angels, Lalibela’s zeal converted the royal residence of the Zagwe in the town of Roha in to a prayer of stone.

The Ethiopian Church afterward consecrated him and changed the name of Roha to Lalibela.

Pilgrims to Lalibela shared the same spiritual blessings as pilgrims to Jerusalem, though the focus of political power drifted to the south, to the region of Shoa.

The legend goes on claiming that Lalibela grew up in Roha, where his brother was king. It is said that bees foretold his future greatness and wealth.

The king (his brother), made jealous by this foretelling, tried to poison Lalibela, but the poison only cast him into a death like sleep for three days.

In those three days of sleep an angel carried his soul to heaven to illustrate him the churches which he was to erect.

Returned to earth he left to the wilderness and got a wife (whose name was Maskal Kebra meaning Exalted Cross) upon God’s will and flew with an angel to Jerusalem.

Anointed king under the throne name Gabre Maskal (meaning servant of the cross) Lalibela, built the construction of the churches. With the help of the angels, the entire church took 24 years to be completed.
Do you have any thing to say on the legends connected with the King’s life and the Holy City?

Keywords: New Jerusalem, New Golgotha, Roha-Lalibela, Lasta, Tekla Haymanot, Zagwe kings, Zagwe dynasty, Maskal Kebra, Gabre Maskal,

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