Already on other occasions we have talked about architectural works excavated in natural rock. And in this line the greatest exponent in the world would be the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, in the current Jordan. Today we want to talk about another magnificent example of excavated cave constructions. In this case the churches of Lalibela, in Ethiopia, incredible works carved on a monumental scale in bas alt rock.
It is an impressive work made up of various temples, of which only 4 are exempt. The rest are all excavated and linked together by tunnels and passageways. And all with the aim of making a symbolic representation of Holy Land, in fact, two very different areas can be distinguished separated by a channel that represents the Jordan Riverthat waters the Middle East.
When was all this built? It is not known for sure, but it is speculated that it was in the 13th century, after King Lalibela visited Jerusalem. It would be then when the complex began with the construction of the church called Casa de María or Biet Mariam. Then the rest would come, the House of the Cross, the House of Golgotha, the House of Gabriel and Rafael, the House of Holy Pan, and others, including the largest of all: the Biet Medhani Alem, which we can translate as the House of the Savior of the World. A temple that waslargest of all and whose forms were inspired by the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Sion.
However, not all researchers share this date, and there are those who think that they are earlier and that their construction took several centuries. And there are even other theories that speak of miracles and that the construction was the work of angels.
The only certain thing is that we are talking about 11 constructions or excavations, totally monolithic. And with the addition of not standing out in the landscape, since they are sunk into the ground up to 50 meters. A unique work and different from any other, and that has been a place of pilgrimage since time immemorial. In fact, we must not forget that Ethiopia is considered the oldest Christian country in the world, since that religion is supposed to be official here since the beginning of the 4th century.
Today the complex can be partially visited and there are some temples that are better preserved than others. For example, the most emblematic image is that of the House of Saint George or Biet Giyorgis, with its spectacular floor plan in the shape of a Greek cross. While there are other temples such as the House of the Savior of the World that has had to be protected by a large metal plate to try to placate the slow but constant process of erosion of the land. At the end of the day, as we said at the beginning, we are referring to works excavated by man in natural rock, and therefore the logical processes of nature can suffer.