The Church of Saint George (Amharic: Bete Giyorgis) is one of eleven rock-hewn monolithic churches in Lalibela, a town in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia. It is the sole architectural structure carved downwards from a type of volcanic tuff, and has been dated to the late 12th or early 13th century. The church is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela" and is accessed via a very narrow man-made canyon, spiralling downwards.
The Church of Saint George has become an icon of Ethiopia, representing the spiritual heart of the town. It was built by King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela of the Zagwe dynasty and remains one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Pilgrims who died after reaching the site are placed in a simple open tomb on its outer walls. The hollowed interior contains a simple shrine to St. George.
Saint George is often depicted as a prominent military saint who is clothed in valiant armor, and it is said that his hoof-prints can still be found imprinted in the rocks surrounding the church. No one knows for sure if it was completed during Lalibela’s lifetime or after he died, but it has been referred to as “the Eighth Wonder of the World” due to its impressive construction. The church was fashioned by carefully chiseling away at a free-standing block of stone out of solid volcanic rock, creating both its exterior and interior shape as they went.
Image By Sailko - Own work, CC BY 3.0