Photos (1) An Amhara Priest from Lalibela with fly whisk and staff in hand walks along the ridge above Lalibela’s River Jordan. The holy town of Lalibela, featuring thirteen rock-hewn churches, is considered by many to be the eighth wonder of the world.Beta Giyorgis (House of Saint George), a 12th Century rock-hewn church in the shape of a crucifix, is carved out of the surrounding rock and stands over forty foot high. Situated in the holy city of Lalibela, it took over four decades to carve and is accessed only through underground tunnels.According to legend, Saint George came by night to supervise the construction of Beta Giyorgis, leaving the hoof marks of his horse in the courtyard surrounding the church – these hoof prints can be seen to this day.The church of Bete Libanos, hewn into the rock face, is unique because both its roof and floor remain attached to the strata. The sun-filled courtyard draws pilgrims to morning prayer.At left, a priest stands at the entrance to one of the many chiselled pathways that join the 12th century rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. Center, the relief carving of a Christian saint found in the interior of Beta Giyorgis Church. At right, a priest stands at the entrance of the Tomb of Adam constructed over the Tomb of Eve within the Lalibela complex of churches.In the courtyard of Beta Mariam, a nun sifts wheat, the grain used for communion bread.At left, a pilgrim reads from the Psalms of David, the most popular prayer book among the Christian Orthodox of Ethiopia. His wooden cross is a reminder of the cross on which Jesus was crucified and his staff symbolises the rod which Moses struck rock in the wilderness to provide water for the children of Israel. At right, a deacon carries a large wood and leather-bound Bible, hand written in Ge’ez, the ancient Semitic language of northern Ethiopia.Mekina Medahane Alem, a ninth century church built by King Alse Gabre Maskal, sits inside a cave high in the mountains above Lalibela.Daily, pilgrims visit the two-story church of Beta Gabriel-Rafael. Its dark, narrow, chiseled entry symbolizes the path to heaven, and its architectural complexity suggests it may have been the residence of the Metropolitan Abuna Mikael before it was converted into a church.At left, the studded door of the church of Beta Gabriel. At right, illuminated by shafts of light passing through the rock-hewn doorway of the church, Priest Yitabarak reads from the Kidan, or New Testament.Christmas Day, known as Genna, falls on Jan 7 according to Ethiopia’s Julian Calendar. Female pilgrims in white shamma cloths gather for early morning prayers in the church of Beta Maryam. Pilgrims who have travelled from a distance spend the night in the church to be ready for early morning Genna rituals.Genna (Christmas) and Timkat (Epiphany) are two of the most important celebrations of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Processions of priests come out of their respective churches and are joined by the laiety, some carrying religious paintings and others processional crosses.Swinging censors of frankencense & myrrh, priests wrapped in shama cloth shawls circle Beta Mariam Church in the early hours of the morning of the Genna Christmas celebration.On Christmas morning, priests mount the wall of Beta Mariam, and, in antiphonal fashion, chant to the members of the congregation below, who then call their response back. This symbolises the harmony between heaven and earth, the dialogue between God and Man.Four Elder Priests with white turbans and ceremonial robes chant from atop the wall surrounding Bete Maryam. They are representatives of a line that stretches back to the fourth Century. The priests are elderly and fear their ancient traditions may die with them.From his perch on the wall surrounding Beta Maryam Church, the Bishop of Lasta delivers a deeply moving Christmas Day speech at the height of the famine of 1985. He says that in order for the Christian pilgrims to survive the drought, they must look within, turn to the church, and pray to God. Although starving, the pilgrims refused to eat on this sacred Christian fasting day, so strong was the conviction of their spiritual beliefs.In the courtyard of Beta Maryam, a deacon carries two processional crosses during Genna celebrations. The richly embroidered velvet umbrellas represent the celestial spheres.Under an awning in the sunken courtyard of Beta Mariam, priests gather to recite Kinnae, a form of mystical poetry written in the ancient lnguage of Ghe’ez. It is chanted slowly to the accompaniment of drums and sistra (jingling metal rattles).Timkat (or Epiphany) celebrates the babtism of Christ by St.John in the River Jordan. It occurs 12 days after Christmas and is the most important celebration in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. At this time the holy Tabots, which are representations of the original tablets of stone contained in the Ark of the Covenant, are taken from their respective churches and carried in procession to Lalibela’s River Jordan.