In the 12th century, the Christian King Lalibela ordered the building of a second Jerusalem on Ethiopian soil when the original was captured by the Muslims. The result of his vision is 11 interconnected churches carved into the rose-gold mountain rocks and dug into the ground by hand—an extraordinary feat with or without the angels that, legend has it, lent a hand. These churches are perfectly preserved today, both delicate and monumental, impossible to detect at a distance but utterly majestic up close. Every church is extraordinary in its own way, but the best known is the Church of St. George, which is in the shape of a Greek Orthodox cross.
In modern times, the handful of foreign visitors are rendered all but invisible by the thousand-strong crowd of monks and nuns, hermits and worshippers, children and grandmothers, all wrapped in white.