Ethiopia's rock-hewn churches

Published 7:05 AM ET, Tue October 16, 2018
ethiopia churches lalibela rocks Bete Giyorgisethiopia churches lalibela rocks Bete Giyorgis
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In the rugged mountains of northern Ethiopia, Lalibela is a religious center that's home to 11 famous rock-hewn churches. Sean Gallup/Getty Images/file
The spectacular churches were carved both inside and out from a single rock some 900 years ago. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images/file
The Church of St. George is perhaps the most famous of Lalibela's 11 churches. Builders would have had to have started carving at the top working their way down. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images/file
A complex and extensive system of drainage ditches, tunnels and subterranean passageways connects the underground churches, which were carved out of volcanic tuff rock. Brice Laine/CNN
Locals say that some 80,000 to 100,000 people visit the small town every year, many of whom traverse the rocky roads on foot. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images/file
UNESCO declared Lalibela a World Heritage Site in 1978. Five years ago, the international agency erected protective coverings to shield four of the churches from the elements. Experts say they are critical to preserving the integrity of the structures. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images/file
A view of one of the churches from one of the tunnels which link many of the sacred sites. Errol Barnett/CNN
A local priest assigned to the House of Emmanuel, one of Lalibela's churches. Errol Barnett/CNN