"The ultimate in rock-church design.... One is amazed at the technical skill, the material resources and the continuity of effort which such vast undertakings imply". "I swear by God, in whose power I am, that all that is written is the truth, and there is much more than I have already written, and I have left it that they may not tax me with its being falsehood." This is the conclusion made by the first European to visit Lalibela -Francisco Alvarez
Lalibela’s churches are divided into two clusters, separated by the Jordan River-one local legend has it that the river was given this name after king Lalibela returned from Jersusalem. The northern cluster comprises seven churches: Bet Medhane Alem, Bet Mariam, Bet Danaghel, Bet Debre sina, Bet Gologota and the Selasie chaple. The southern cluster consists of five churches:Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercurios, Bet Aba Libanos, Bet Lehem and Bet Gebriel Rafael. A thirteenth church, Bet Giorgis stands discret from the two main clusters.
The various churches of Lalibla were constructed using one of the two different method. Bet Giorgis and the churches in the northwest cluster are mostly excavated from below the ground, and are surrounded by courtyards and trenches, so that they mimic normal buildings. Several of these churches are monoliths or three-quarter monoliths-free from the surrounding rock on three or four sides a style of excavation that is unique to Ethiopia. The churches of the southwest cluster are similar to many churches in Tigray, in that most of them were excavated from a vertical rock face by exploiting existing caves or cracks in the rock
The style is remarkably similar to the numerous rock-hewn churches of Tigray, but the sheer masterpiece in craftsmanship is quite wonderful. These churches were so perfect that they were considered by some as ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’, and became one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites. Lalibela is still revered as a saint by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. His tomb and the city itself draw thousands of pilgrims every year.