WHY A REPLICA?
My name is Elizabeth Tsehai. I am an Ethiopian-American entrepreneur based in Washington, DC. I found that many people had not heard of Ethiopia's cross-shaped church, so I designed a small decorative replica as a way of showcasing it. A firm in Addis helped with the design and I added LED lights to reference the candlelit ceremonies that still take place there.
Carved from a single rock 900 years ago, Lalibela's cross-shaped church is a remarkable feat of architecture and engineering. Known as Bet Giorgis, or House of St. George, it is well preserved due to an ingenious drainage system which keeps water from pooling on the roof and a surrounding trench which protects it from the elements.
Iconic structures around the world represent a country's culture, history and achievement. Lalibela's cross-shaped church may not be among the best known, but its story is no less compelling.
ETHIOPIA'S "NEW JERUSALEM"
Lalibela is a part of the world's medieval history when the Crusades made it dangerous for pilgrims to travel to Jerusalem. In the 12th century, Ethiopia's King Lalibela built a series of rock-hewn churches in Roha, a town later named after him. He envisioned this "New Jerusalem" as a safe alternative for pilgrimage. His vision endures: Lalibela to this day draws thousands of worshippers on religious holidays. The candlelit ceremonies are unchanged over the centuries. A recent New York Times article noted: "Ethiopia is...an attractive mix of ancient tradition and rapid modernization."
WHAT COMES NEXT?
A portion of the proceeds from the replica will go towards preservation efforts such as improved interior lighting for the Lalibela churches.
We hope our replica will help to raise awareness about Lalibela, which in addition to promoting tourism could also help the Ethiopian Space Science Society with its plans to build a state-of-the-art Observatory.
With its high altitude, thin air and minimal cloud cover, Lalibela is ideal for astronomical viewing. Space science technology has applications to sectors such as communications, energy and food security. The Observatory could reestablish Lalibela as a center for knowledge and innovation.