In the 12th century, King Lalibela of Ethiopia received a vision from God, who told him to carve 11 churches out of the local stone. This New Jerusalem, as the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela were known, kept pilgrims from having to make the dangerous trek to Jerusalem to honor their God.
The rock churches of Lalibela are among the main attractions of any trip to Ethiopia. The stone monuments of faith belong since 1978 to the Unesco world cultural heritage. The town looks inconspicuous and dusty.
For centuries, Christian pilgrims — and tourists — have travelled to the mountainous region of northern Ethiopia to visit the 11 spectacular medieval churches carved out of rock. After Muslim conquests blocked Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land, King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, who ruled Ethiopia in the late 12th century and early 13th century, set out to construct a “New Jerusalem,” which remains a pilgrimage site and place of devotion to this day.