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Christmas in Lalibela(24 images)

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Every year, just before the 7th of January - Christmas day - thousands of pilgrims descend on Lalibela, a small village in the Ethiopian highlands; for in and around Lalibela are 11 rock hewn churches, the most holy place in Ethiopia.
The Churches were carved out of the rock in the 12th century by the legendary King Lalibela.
The Pilgrims come from all wake of life, the poorest and...
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  • Pilgrims walk toward Lalibela to attend the Orthodox Christmas ceremonies. Some pellegrins will walk for weeks, depending on the hospitality and generosity of villagers for food and shelter..In Ethiopian the highlands - the mountanious Wolo and Tigray regions - there is a tradition for rock hewn and cave churches, many dating back nearly a thousand years. .
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  • Lalibela is a collection of 11 rock hewn churches, named after the king that build them in the 12th century; they are a remarkable phenomenon. Every genna (Christmas) thousands of pilgrims come there. They sleep, cook and pray on the rock surrounding the famous Bet Mariam Church.
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  • In the weeks leading up to genet (Christmas) the pilgrims start arriving, many have walked for weeks to be there. They arrive exhausted, but full of face religious ferver.
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  • The churches are monolith structures and all surrounded by the rock wall. In the wall surrounding there are many small caves, they are homes to monks and nuns. In Bet Giyorgis church one cave contains the bones of pilgrims, people come to touch them and to give alms to the nun who also lives in the cave.
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  • Pilgrims waiting in the morning mist in Lalibela, a small village but the second capital of the ancient Ethiopian empire in the highlands. Every year, just before the 7th of January - Christmas day - thousands of pilgrims descend on Lalibela, for in and around Lalibela are 11 rock hewn churches, the most holy place in Ethiopia. The Churches were carved out of the rock in the 12th century by the legendary King Lalibela. <br />
The Pilgrims come from all wake of life, the poorest and most pious arrive by foot, often walking for 2 or 3 weeks. People sleep out in the open surrounding the churches. The ceremonies last for 3 days and 3 nights, and involve prayers, psalms, dances, music and songs. Priests from all around the country gather for the event.
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  • Pilgrims gather to look at a painting in Bet Golgotha. They also collect ashes in each church, which they mix with water and drink as a medicine. Every church in Lalibela has its specific cross, and the pilgrims seek to be blessed in every church.
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  • The thousands of pilgrims move through the churches admiring the paintings, the crosses and the structures. In the last few days before Genna the rich city pilgrims arrive, and there is frenzy everywhere as everyone tries to visit every church.
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  • On the night between the 5th and the 6th there is prayer and the priest dance outsides Bet Amanuel, a smaller church with a big courtyard. The next morning this pilgrim is still reading his bible. The bible is written in ge?ez ? an ancient language which was used in North Ethiopia (AXUM), today only the church uses it, like Latin for the Catholic Church.
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  • In Bet Golgotha there are some very rare figurative relieves. There are seven relieves of saints and one that is "Jesus tomb". This chapel of the church is the only area in Lalibela where women are not allowed.
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  • A pilgrim walks into one of the many tunnels that connect the churches together.
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  • On Christmas morning, after mass, a group of priests and deacons are reading a very old bible. The bible is written in Ge?ez ? an ancient language which was used in North Ethiopia (AXUM), today only the church uses it, like Latin for the Catholic Church. The old man on the left is the priest of Bet Mariam; he is one of the most important priests in Lalibela.
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  • Woman preaching in the courtyard of the church Bet Amanuel. Every year, just before the 7th of January, Christmas day, thousands of pilgrims descend on Lalibela, a small village but the second capital of the ancient Ethiopian empire in the highlands; for in and around Lalibela are 11 rock hewn churches, the most holy place in Ethiopia. The Churches were carved out of the rock in the 12th century by the legendary King Lalibela. The Pilgrims come from all wake of life, the poorest and most pious arrive by foot, often walking for 2 or 3 weeks. People sleep out in the open surrounding the churches. The ceremonies last for 3 days and 3 nights, and involve prayers, psalms, dances, music and songs. Priests from all around the country gather for the event.
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  • A few days after genet it St. Stefanus day, and a celebration with singing and dancing takes place in the church. Many pilgrims on their way home from Lalibela pass this way.
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  • The cloth that has protected the priest and important guests through the day outsides Bet Mariam - is taken down as night starts to fall on the 6th. This is where the priest will sing and dance the whole night for the big Christmas ceremony, and where the mass will be held next morning.
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  • On Christmas morning, after the ceremonies during the night two deacons carry this painting out of the Bet Mariam compound. The many pilgrims in the courtyard get up to leave. Most are rich pilgrims who have paid beggars to keep a space for them several days before the 6th.
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  • The church is only open for men, it has a small local congregation, but the pilgrims swell the numbers. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the only church to use drums.
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  • A banner of the Ethiopian flag on the walls of Bet Mariam on Christmas morning. The walls, which were full of pilgrims until a few hours ago have now emptied as the pilgrims, begin the walk home.
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  • On the night between the 5th and the 6th there is prayer and the priest dance outsides Bet Amanuel. Inside the small church pilgrims pray.
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  • On the night between the 5th and the 6th there is prayer and the priest dance outsides Bet Amanuel. The dancing priest in the courtyard of Bet Amanuel on The dancing is similar to the one the next night in Bet Mariam.
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  • On Christmas night the pilgrims stay awake all night, praying and singing around Bet Mariam ? the biggest church. The deacons move among the people selling candles, and priest sit at small tables like this one, where people can be blessed or buy a candle.
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  • On the night between the 5th and the 6th there is prayer and the priest dance outsides Bet Amanuel. Inside the small church pilgrims pray.
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  • Close to Lalibela in Wolo there is the old cave church Bet Stefanos, probably built at the same time as the Lalibela churches. It?s a one and a half-hour trek from the nearest road.
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  • Pilgrims reading bibles.<br />
Every year, just before the 7th of January - Christmas day - thousands of pilgrims descend on Lalibela, a small village but the second capital of the ancient Ethiopian empire in the highlands; for in and around Lalibela are 11 rock hewn churches, the most holy place in Ethiopia. The chapels in Lalibela are of three groups, symbolizing the Earthly Jerusalem, the Heavenly Jerusalem and Noah's Ark.<br />
The Churches were carved out of the rock in the 12th century by the legendary King Lalibela.<br />
The Pilgrims come from all wake of life, the poorest and most pious arrive by foot, often walking for 2 or 3 weeks. People sleep out in the open surrounding the churches. The ceremonies last for 3 days and 3 nights, and involve prayers, psalms, dances, music and songs. Priests from all around the country gather for the event.
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  • Bet Giyorgis, the most famous of the Lalibela churches as the sun goes down on Christmas day. Nearly 40 meters tall, the cross-shaped church is one of the world?s wonders.
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