NAKUTOLA’AB BUILT UP CAVE CHURCH
It is the nearest monastery outside Lalibela and it is only 7km south of Lalibela on the Lalibela-Kulmesk Route.
The monastery is built inside a natural cave and it was established during the period of the zagwe-Dynasty at the beginning of the 13th Century by an Ethiopian saint known as St. Nakutola’ab.
It is a famous monastery for its holy water that drops throughout the year from the rocky ceiling of the internal part of the church inside the cave.
GENETE MARIAM MONOLITHIC ROCK HEWN CHURCH (THE CHURCH OF ST. MARY)
It is located 25km south of Lalibela on the former road that take to Woldia and via Kulmesk town. This monolithic rock hewn church is one of the five monolithic rock hewn churches that prevail in Ethiopia. This five monolithic rock hewn churches feature is their isolation from the surrounding rock mountains and they stand freely and one can walk around them easily and are made just from one block of stone that they are carved. According to some sources, it was built by king Lalibela in the 12th century along with the famous rock hewn churches that are found at the old town of Lalibela. There are some other sources and some clergy men in Genete Mariam that attribute the carving of this rock hewn churches to the 13th century King Yekuno Amlak who is the founder of the “Solomonic Dynasty”.
The architectural feature of this rock hewn church include 24 external pillars that symbolize the Twenty Four Elders (according to the theologians, these are the twenty Four Heavenly Clergy that praise the Almighty God).
There are four structurally supportive internal pillars that are theologically meant to represent Cherubim and Seraphim that are Alpha and Omega like Creator of the Universe. A total of 28 Pillars are noted at this particular rock hewn church. There are 35 windows totally. In the courtyard where the church is standing, there are four caves carved out in to the surrounding rocky cliff and one of those caves is used for the purpose of chanting and ecclesiastical hymns that take place whenever there are services and prayers that goes on at this particular monastery.
To mention on more of this rock hewn church’s possessions of different riches such as ancient treasures housed there, there are medieval period wall paintings that have biblical meanings both from Old and New Testament history. There are also canvas religious paintings.
AS there are clays and pottery ruins that were found by archaeological digging, it is a potential site that may draw archaeologists for future studies.
There are annual festivals that take place at this particular rock hewn church on September 21 (Ethiopian Date), December 21 (Ethiopian Date), June 21 (Ethiopian Date) and these dates are for commemoration and religious festivals and those who may be interested in attending those festivals then it is time to pay homage to this sacred rock hewn churches.
EMEKINA MEDHANIALEM BUILT UP CAVE CHURCH
This particular historic church was built by the three saintly nuns who had previously built the built-up cave church of Emekina Lideta Mariam. Emekina Medhanialem Built-up Cave Church is built under a huge natural cave like the Emekina Lideta Mariam. Not only the building structure of the church which is a wonder but also its place where the holy water is found is another wonder. The background history of the miraculous finding of the holy water took place when one shepherd who is hearing-impaired had followed his ship that was heading in to a rocky tunnel of the rocky mountain where this monastery prevails and the sheep was stuck in muddy ground of the cave through the tunnel where the holy water exists then the shepherd decided to drink water from the holy water he found by chance as he was thirsty then his hearing was miraculously restored. The mentioned reason of the finding of this holy water became major reason for pilgrimage ever since. The place where the holy water is found is a cave that is dark & the surface of the holy water area widens as you keep going in and end of the cave opening up seems endless as it was tried before to reach the end but never been made to its end so far. Up to date, pilgrims and believers who come to get baptized at this holy water site, they pass through the narrow entrance to the dark cave where the holy water then they lit bunch of wood during the baptism ritual until everyone gets done turn by turn. Strong torches needed to be brought for the exploration of this particular holy water site.
The Annual festival that takes place at this particular monastery is on the 27th May (Ethiopian Date) so any one interested in visiting the site during this particular genuine Culture and religious fest then needs to think as to when it is being celebrated on Western Calendar by discussing with your local agent in Ethiopia.
MAWURIE ESTIPHANOS MONASTERY (THE CHURCH OF ST. STEPHEN)
This monastery church was carved as a cave church during the period of the Axumite King, King Gebremeskel.
It is located south of Lalibela and it is after 40KM drive from Lalibela to Kulmesk town. Then drive another 10KM to the mountain where the monastery is located and after the place where the vehicle stops, it takes two hours and half walk on foot path that head up hill to the monastery church. The place where this monastery is established is on an ideal place to witness how Lasta Province is beautiful in scenery and full of natural, religious and cultural attractions. The monastery is surrounded by forest of endemic flora and fauna. There are ancient trees of endemic species found at this monastery and it is also rich in Birdlife and Wildlife. In the middle of the 7th century, three saintly nuns who have brought the Holy Ark of St. Stephen from Jerusalem to this part of Lasta Province being led by a rainbow and they have been in charge for the founding of this monastery church at the time and they housed the Holy Ark in this church. Before the church was found here, the place was used as one of the pre-Christian Period ancient belief sacrifice sites in Ethiopia.