The town of Lalibela is located in Amhara, northern Ethiopia. It was originally called Roha, but the historical and religious site was named Lalibela in honor of King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela of the Zagwe dynasty, who commissioned its construction 900 years ago.
What happened during the 133 years of the Zagwe dynasty is still a mystery to historians because there are few written records about the period.
It is known that at the end of the 12th century, King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela presented himself as heir to the Solomonic dynasty, founded by Menelique I, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and ordered the excavation of several temples, many meters deep in the volcanic rock, starting construction on the site.
The king of Ethiopia sought to recreate Jerusalem and structured the landscape and religious sites of the churches in order to achieve this feat.
The churches at Lalibela were grouped into two main groups, one representing the earthly Jerusalem and the other representing the heavenly Jerusalem, and between the two groups there is a trench representing the Jordan River.
According to oral traditions, King Lalibela had a divine vision in which he received instructions on how to build the complex. Angels maintained a close relationship with the anointed king, heir to the Solomonic dynasty, and while men worked during the day, angels descended from heaven and did the work at night.
The monolithic structures were hewn directly into the rocks up to 40 meters deep, from top to bottom, with unknown techniques and sophisticated engineering, which remains poorly understood by modern science.
With 11 churches, a monastery and several temples, the buildings form a labyrinthine city, with Bet Giyorgis, the Church of St. George, being the most spectacular of the structures in the Lalibela complex.
This temple is a perfect cube, carved in the shape of a cross, 30 meters deep and 25 meters on the sides, with its roof at ground level.
Its interior is forbidden to visit and contains a shrine to Saint George that only the priest of the temple has access to.
According to Ethiopian tradition, this is where the Ark of the Covenant is located, which was brought from Jerusalem to Ethiopia by Menelique, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.