Lalibela (a.m.)/ Addis Ababa (p.m.), Ethiopia
Date: Lodging: Distance: Total:
17/09/2000 Sheraton Addis 390 KM 101026 KM

A 14th century solid silver drum with gold plate is still used during mass at Asheton Maryam.

A priest from Asheton Maryam shows us the 800-year-old Book of Mary. Jim and I were shocked these ancient manuscripts are still in use and available for visitors to examine and photograph.

Treasures inside the church at Asheton Maryam include a 13th century painting, 12th century crowns (given to the church when royalty die) and ancient icons.

Inside the church at Asheton Maryam is a natural watering hole that offers holy water.

The view from Asheton Maryam shows a fertile, lush Ethiopia.

Just outside Lalibela is the Asheton Maryam, a monastery at 4000 meters carved in the opening of the mountain. The blue tarp protects the ceiling from the waterfall. King Nakuta La’ab, who succeeded King Lalibela, founded this church.

Most of the churches in Lalibela celebrate Sunday mass; here are the priests in Bet Medhane Alem. After a couple of hours of reading from the Bible, the priests begin singing with ancient drums lending a slow, deep, rhythmic beat.

The Lalibela Cross was stolen from Bet Medhane Alem (House of the Redeemer of the World) in 1997, but is now back in the Church, although no one seems to know the circumstances that led to its disappearance or recovery.

The 800-year-old, seven kilogram, solid gold Lalibela Cross is rubbed on believers to heal or bless them.

Reading in Ge’ez from the Scriptures

Singing during Sunday morning mass – notice the brass musical instrument used by the priests and the religious canes, sometimes put under arms for support when mass goes on for many hours

Sunday morning mass involves reading from the Bible in Ge’ez, a now defunct language except for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

17 September 2000 – We've just returned from Lalibela with a dozen twelfth and thirteenth century rock-hewn churches built during King Lalibela’s reign. The churches, chiseled entirely by hand, are monolithic sculptures carved from rock and connected by a vast tunnel network, much of which can still be explored today. I stood in awe as we discovered these ancient places and delighted in reviewing 800-year-old sacred books, but wondered whether these masterpieces shouldn't be better preserved. How long will this history remain without maintenance and conservation?

During Sunday morning mass, we listened to priests of all ages, draped in white cloth, read in Ge’ez from centuries-old, handmade books of the Bible. Priests shook brass musical instruments (a sort of tambourine) as some chanted and sang in Ge’ez, a language used today only by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Other priests rested on religious canes placed under their arms since mass continued for several hours. Large, wooden and leather drums, played mostly by young boys, complimented the services. At Bet Medhane Alem (House of the Redeemer of the World) a solemn priest rubbed the 800-year-old, seven-kilogram, solid gold Lalibela Cross over the bodies of believers who desired healing or blessing. No one seems to know the circumstances that led to the disappearance of the Lalibela Cross in 1997 or its recovery in 2000.


  More on Lalibela (Paige)
  Lalibela’s extraordinary churches (Paige)