ROCK-HEWN CHURCHES OF LALIBELA
Comprising eleven churches and two chapels, Ethiopia’s labyrinthine ‘New Jerusalem’, excavated by King Lalibela in the 12th century and still in active use today, has been dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. Hand-carved into the rock flake by painstaking flake, a process that would have required around 40,000 man-years to complete, Lalibela represents the apex of an Ethiopian church-excavating tradition that dates to the arrival of Christianity circa 350 AD. Many of Lalibela’s churches are subterranean monoliths, created in two stages. First, a quadrangle of trenches up to 15 metres deep would be hand-cut into a horizontal rock surface. Only then could the artisans commence work on the actual church, which was excavated into a massive freestanding central block enclosed by the artificial trenches.