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Churches carved from stone by Tony B

Why build a church when you can carve one from the very rock you stand on ?!

The Church of Saint George Amhara region of Ethiopia, known locally as Bete Giyorgis, is one of 11 such churches carved into the bed rock in Lalibela (Amhara region of Ethiopia) commissioned by King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela of the Zagwe Dynasty (900 – 1270 A.D)

The church of St. George stands proud in a 25m by 25m wide pit that is carved out of solid volcanic rock. It was constructed by excavating a free-standing block of stone out of the bed-rock and then removing all the waste material from around it. The stone masons then carefully chiselled away the outline of the church outline, shaping both the exterior and interior of the building as they went.

"The church contains three west-facing doorways, nine ‘blind’ lower level windows and twelve upper-row windows. A number of the windows are embellished with carved semi-­palette cross motifs, while the roof of the structure contains a sequence of Greek crosses in relief, one inside the other. The church grounds are accessed via a descending trench and tunnel, which allow access to a sunken courtyard surrounding the building. This contains a small baptismal pool, while its vertical walls have a number of caves that are used as basic housing for priests and as burial tombs." (

For more info about this church and similar in Ethiopia visit the UNESCO page

Image: Eric Lafforgue

Image: Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

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