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THE WORLD AROUND US Lalibela: Ethiopia’s Divinely Sculpted Stone Churches (In Amharic)    
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Today’s The World Around Us will be presented in Amharic and English, with subtitles in Amharic, Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Greetings blessed viewers. Welcome to The World Around Us on Supreme Master Television. Today we will travel to the wondrous African continent to visit the enchanting country of Ethiopia. This spiritual land is one of the earliest Christian nations, having first embraced the faith in the 4th century.

Ethiopia also is home to magnificent historical and religious sites, such as the illustrious churches of Lalibela. These monolithic churches refer to the 11 rock-hewn churches which are all near each other. These ancient structures were and commissioned by King Lalibela. They were carved from a single block of stone with the assistance of angels and Saint Gabriel over a period of 25 years. Although there are other monolithic churches in the world, none have the free-standing external walls like the Lalibela churches.

Welcome to the rock churches of Lalibela. So, our country Ethiopia, it's ancient and a civilized country, the past is 3,000 years long. So within those periods there were 230 kings in Ethiopia. Among them the Aksun dynasty and the Zagwe dynasty were the most popular ones. In the Zagwe dynasty, there were 11 kings. Among them, four were priest kings. Namely, Saint Yimrehane Kristos, Saint Guebremariam, Saint Lalibela and Nakotolaab.

Now I’m going to give you introduction about Saint Lalibela. So Saint Lalibela, he was born at the beginning of the 12th century. Lalibela, he was one of the priest kings of Zagwe Dynasty, and he built 11 rock-hewn churches from a single rock in the 12th century. So, this area has got recognition from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1978, it is a World Heritage Site.

One legend about King Lalibela’s life is that at his birth, his crib was encircled by a dense cloud of bees. His mother remembered an old belief that animals have the ability to predict important futures. Therefore, she named him Lalibela, meaning in the Ago language, “the bees recognize his sovereignty.” King Harbay, Lalibela’s older brother, felt threatened by these prophesies about his brother and tried to poison him. This eventually resulted in a deadly potion that left Lalibela in mortal sleep. Angels transported him to the first, second and third heavens where God told him to go back to Roha and build a New Jerusalem with churches in a unique style. God also told Lalibela how to design the churches, where to build and how to decorate them.

After a time, his brother, King Kedus Harbe, he saw a dream. “You have already finished your power. You are not going to extend anymore. So you just go and find your brother and apologize to him. And you have to give the power to him. This is all.” Then his brother, King Kedus Harbe, he kept it up.

He accepted that because it was a message from God. And he found Lalibela where he was, and then he gave him power.

After three days of Divine communication, Lalibela returned to physical existence and accepted the throne from his brother who abdicated the throne to Lalibela after being visited by God.

The town was called Roha. It is 1,524 years old. Roha means “clean, neat.” But after the excavation of the church, the town was named by the king, from Roha [to] Lalibela.

Both brothers traveled to the city of Roha, which was later renamed Lalibela. They began building the 11 churches with the help of the Ago people. The churches were built with great speed because angels continued the work at night.

And since none of the people who helped in the construction were professional architects or engineers, it is believed by many to have been a success due to God’s grace. When viewing these temples, there are some fairly obvious details which demonstrate the high standard of technical knowledge: the churches are grouped in sets of several levels in order to allow for the dispersal of the heavy summer rains. There are also trenches serving as drainage systems to the river Jordan.

Really it is a big task. It’s somewhat tiresome. But, it’s believed that angels helped him a lot. You can imagine, during the 12th century, even technology we have not developed, and human skill we have not developed. But during that time, there was one supernatural power, which gives them power, and skill as well. So this is mostly believed by the local people. You know chisel? And hammer? And axe? How they carved the church, how they just try to chisel? It’s very amazing.

After laboring for 20 years, King Lalibela abdicated his throne to become a hermit, living in a cave and eating only roots and vegetables. To this day, Ethiopian Christians regard King Lalibela as one of their greatest saints.

The world-renowned group of 11 churches at Lalibela comprises a very important historical and religious site, attracting thousands of pilgrims from around the world.

The Northern portion of the church complex consists of Bete Medhane Alem, home to the Lalibela Cross, which is believed to be the largest monolithic church in the world. Bete Medhane Alem is linked by walkways and tunnels to Bete Maryam, which is possibly the oldest of the churches.

Inside the church, there are three parts. The first part of the church is a place where priests are chanting and dancing. So this is a place for priests, for chanting. And second part is here. That is a place for pilgrims for praying. And when they want to take the Holy Communion, they would be here. And the third part of the church is behind the curtain. That is a place of the ark, the place of the Holy of Holies. It's only allowed for priests.

This church is called House of Mary. And it was the first project of the king. And it is 11.5 meters high. It has two floors. The first floor has seven rooms, which are symbolizing the seven Heavens. And this church is highly elaborated, or decorated. On the top you can see three windows, symbolizing Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Under that you can see Latin cross, then after you will see an arch which is representing womb of Saint Mary, which represents or symbolizes the descending of God from Heaven to Earth and born from Saint Mary. so we are inside the church.

On the top there, that is Star of David, which represents the Old Testament. Here is very unique pillar which is called the Pillar of Light. It’s written in three languages: Ge'ez, Hebrew and Greek. It describes the past and the future, Alpha and Omega. Even when the cloths are worn out, they will never remove it. They just put additional cloths on it. Just to make it top secret, not to make it clear. So this unique pillar is found here in the House of Mary.

Other churches which can be viewed in the Northern Portion include the Bete Golgotha, which is thought to contain the tomb of King Lalibela, the Selassie Chapel as well as the Tomb of Adam.

The Twelve Apostles are kind of carved out in such a way here in the House of Golgotha. So it shows the way how they dressed, the way how they are.

The second group or Western Group is named Bete Giyorgis, or Church of Saint George. It is built in the shape of a cross and is noted as the best preserved church of Lalibela.

After he [King Lalibela] got more experience, he built this wonderful church. It’s perpendicular and straight-angled, so you can see how it is carved out from the top to bottom. This is the one which is well known and you can find it on postcards, you can watch it on TV and different magazines as well. There are seven steps here, so it symbolizes seven Heavens.

This is the last church built and having very special design. The thickness of the roof is over two meters, and the pillar is not separated actually; it’s attached, so it gives more strength for the church. And there are Latin crosses, symbolizing Trinity. Saint Lalibela, he made these two boxes before the churches, to put the working materials. It was used as a tool box, to keep up the chisel, the axe and the hammer. So it has a traditional lock. When we tighten it, it goes down and closes the box. When we loosen it, it comes up and opens the box. So this was a traditional lock. Probably the modern screw might come from this.

The Eastern Group is made up of Bete Amanuel, Bete Abba Libanos, and Bete Gabriel-Rufael. All are believed to have been former royal chapels and palaces. The architectural intricacy of Bete Gabriel-Rufael has led people to believe that it may have once been the living quarters of the royal family before it became a church.

The inside of the Lalibela’s churches have been beautifully decorated in fine detail with beautiful paintings, as well as detailed carved pillars and entrances.

Here are different church materials as well. This was the hand cross of King Nakotolaab or priest King Nakotolaab. It's made of iron. And this was again a cross used by King Nakotolaab in the 13th century. And this is a censer to put incense to fire. Incense by the way has a good smell when you fire it.

And, Saint Mary here. Saint Michael and Saint Gabriel. Mark and… the four Evangelists, Matthew, Luke, and John. And the one at the middle is Jesus Christ. And here are different Church materials. They were a gift of different kings. Especially the one on the right side which is made of bronze, it's the crown of King John IV, and it was a gift. And this was made of silver, it was a gift of King Takla Giorgis. And this is, again, it's made of brass on the top, gold and silver one, can see.

So there is incense inside if you see, in order to burn and to give good smell for the church. This is cross of Lalibela. It's made of silver. On the top it symbolizes or represents Jesus, the crucifixion of Jesus, and the Twelve Apostles, six on the right and six on the left. And this is Aksumite design, Aksumite cross you can say. It’s a gold and silver one. So it’s very unique.

Arriving on any given morning, one is sure to find many sincere truth seekers, clad mostly in white with colorful shawls. Wandering through the narrow walkways, one can only wonder how many people – and angels – used their sincere hands to create these beautiful churches. Our Earth is truly graced to have such an ancient and wondrous place as Lalibela to worship God and to remember Ethiopia’s glorious heritage. May the faithful and blessed Ethiopian people flourish in peace, continuing to add beauty and a sacred atmosphere to our Earth.

Thank you loving viewers for your company on The World Around Us. Coming up next is Words of Wisdom, right after Noteworthy News. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television. May we see the Divine miracles in our daily lives.
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