“Religion is a faith. It’s real as long as you believe it is.”
I’m not a religious person. Yet, stories surrounding religions never fail to fascinate me and the story of Lalibela is probably one of the most extraordinary.
The story of the crown fight and how Lalibela came to be
Lalibela was the name of a king. Before he became the king, his older brother poisoned him in fear of him taking the crown. Lalibela was in a coma for three days. In his coma, he had an awakening from God. He was instructed to build the new Jerusalem in Ethiopia, and build a church from one solid rock.
After waking up, Lalibela spent over 23 years up on the rock mountains elevated at 2600 metres to build 11 churches. The holy site is now known as Lalibela.
Stunned by the majestic work
I can’t say I know religions well enough to make a well-educated comment. But Christianity in Ethiopia felt very different. Ethiopians are very devoted to their religion, praying everyday and every night starting from 4am, with each session lasting 3 hours.
Seeing the rock-hem church was breath-taking. It’s hard to fathom building a church from top-down from the ground. It defied all physics I knew about architecture. Starting from the bottom to build your way up is how construction goes. Lalibela managed to defy that law and build the churches from the top and dig his way down from the ground. He had to have the perfect calculation and design in mind for this to work. What would probably be deemed impossible today was done 8 centuries ago.
Visitors from all around the world come to see this marvellous wonder, a symbol, a faith that united its people. I love a good story on solidarity and the story of Lalibela made my eyes water, especially when I was standing on top of the church, taking it all in.
Today, Lalibela is a town, and not a very developed or prosperous one compared to Addis Ababa or Gondar. Kids would hassle us for money, while adults trying to sell us items. I was never a supporter of any kind of sale tactics that involves following your customers until you wear them out. I held onto that until in Axum, but that’s another story.