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Ethiopia's new king, King Lalibela, determined that his subjects, as well as the small Christian states scattered along the Nile, should have their own "Jerusalem" at his capital, Roha, to visit in order to show their devotion.
The surrounding roads heave with pilgrims, some beating skin- covered drums and others waving sticks covered in bells, as around them children dart, selling crucifixes fashioned from dried reeds.
The only way to properly appreciate the Bet Giyorgis is to look down upon it.
During that time, its church flourished in isolation, untouched by and ignorant of the theological disputes dividing Europe.
That means its traditions provide insight into an older, perhaps purer and certainly more mystical form of Christianity – one that dates back 1,600 years and therefore, in its unaltered forms, bears witness to a liturgy practised only a relatively brief period after the time of Jesus Christ.
And the chanting is not Arabic but Ge'ez , the holy language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Ge'ez has been spoken in Ethiopia since the time Rome was first founded.Some of the churches are constructed across the sides of valleys. The largest hill overlooking the site became the site's own Mount Tabor. Locals often say 23 years – but that is based on the legend that angels themselves came to help work on it, taking over at night as the human workers went home to rest.Others are built deep into ravines, the result cave-like. Without any records from that period, it is not even known how those humans who did toil on the site were housed or fed.Nowhere in Lalibela is as impressive, however, as the building they finished last.That is the Bet Giyorgis, or the Church of St George, and it is there – it being St George's saint's day – that the crowds are gathered and from where the chanting comes.What I had not expected was that I would also get to see one of the world's most impressive – and most affecting – architectural marvels.