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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Beta Giyorgis (Church of St. George), Lalibela, Ethiopia

A monolithic church or rock-hewn church is a church made from a single block of stone. They are one of the most basic forms of monolithic architecture.

The churches are usually hewn into the ground or into the side of a hill or mountain and can be of comparable architectural complexity to constructed buildings.



The term primarily refers to the complex of eleven churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia believed to have been created in the 12th century, the most famous of which is the cross-shaped Church of St. George (Beta Giyorgis). It was built by King Lalibela, who was a devoted Christian at that time. This rock hewn church is a big research site by archeologists and historians to closely search the former civilization. Lalibela is one of the world's precious heritages registered by UNESCO.

The 11 medieval monolithic cave churches of this 12th-century 'New Jerusalem' are situated in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia near a traditional village with circular-shaped dwellings. Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity, still today a place of pilgrimage and devotion.

Other churches (outside of Lalibela) in northern Ethiopia were also hewn from the rock during the Zagwe dynasty, especially in Tigray, where Abba Teweldemedhin Yosief (in The Monolithic Churches of Tigray) counts over 120, three-quarters of which are still in use.[1]

Other churches

Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki

There are a number of monolithic churches elsewhere in the world. However, none have the free-standing external walls of the Lalibela churches and more closely resemble cave monasteries in that they consist of tunnels into a single rock. Examples include:


  1. ^ Ghelawdewos Araia, The Magnificence of Aksum: Revisiting Ethiopian Civilization

See also

External links

Coordinates: 12°01′54″N 39°02′28″E / 12.03167°N 39.04111°E / 12.03167; 39.04111

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