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Ethiopia: Lalibela priests

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Lalibela priests | Ethiopia | Africa

[Visited: October 2006]

The marvellous churches of Lalibela and surrounds are a wonder in themselves, spectacular and truly amazing. Every church has its own priest, and these are not only the ones taking care of the services in the church, but also have a role as a kind of museum keepers to visitors. They are invariably dressed in white, with a white cloth wrapped around their head, they are the guards of the treasures of their church, and above all, they are human.

Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priest of Bilbilla Chirkos proudly showing a precious old goatskin book

They can be bad-tempered, impatient, they can have a bad day, they can be elusive, but also friendly, quiet, religious and well-disposed towards the curious visitor. Sometimes, they give a strong feeling that they are only interested in earning some tip, especially in outlying churches around Lalibela. Other times, they genuinely take their time to show their church, pointing out decorations, telling stories, and showing off finely carved crosses and centuries old goat skin books. Sometimes a church has beehives, and in one case priests gave us a lot of fresh, delicious honey to take away.

Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priest with cross in Bilbilla Giyorgis

Priests also hold the key to their church, and locating the priest is the primary concern before visiting any church outside Lalibela. Especially in Lalibela itself, priests are used to tourists taking pictures, and often carry sunglasses to protect their eyes from flashlight. What amazed me most, was that most churches have treasures of incredible beauty, like very old, beautifully decorated goat skin holy books, that just lie around their church, seemingly without protection. They leaf through the books, showing certain pages with obvious pride. It is difficult to imagine visiting the churches of Lalibela without priests: they are part and parcel of the historical churches.

Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priests near Asheton Maryam
Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priest showing treasures of Bet Golgotha church
Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priest showing cartoon-like century-old goatskin book in Asheton Maryam
Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priest with cross and candle in Bilbilla Chirkos
Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Bilbilla Giyorgis priest showing an old goat skin book
Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priest of Bet Maryam showing cross of the church
Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priest showing the cross of Yemrehanna Kristos
Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priest showing the finely carved cross of Asheton Maryam
Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priest showing treasures of Asheton Maryam church
Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priest near baptismal pool at Bet Giyorgis
Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priest in door of Bet Gebriel-Rafael
Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Priest showing the cross of Genata Maryam
Picture of Lalibela priests (Ethiopia): Reading priest leaning against a wall in Bet Maryam

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