The Lalibela Cross
Also known as Afro Ayigeba, the Lalibela Cross is a large ornate processional cross, elaborately adorned in lavish gold, and is considered an artifact of immense historical, cultural and religious significance.
The central cross spreads it’s golden arms side-wards, towards an ornate encircling band, slowly flaring as it reaches out. Like many Ethiopian crosses, the Lalibela cross is supported by a motif meant to portray Adam's arms, affectionately known as ‘Adams arms’.
Starting most of the way along the top of the outer band, smaller cross protrude into the air, like minuscule men holding hands, connected in the middle by one slightly larger cross.
This style of cross has become synonyms with this original artifact, so much so that all crosses bearing similar resemblance are known as Lalibela crosses.
At the moment, the cross is held within the Bet Medhane Alem ('House of the Redeemer of the World'), a 12th-century rock-hewn church in Lalibela, part of the network of 11 churches in the area, all built by King Laibella himself in the 12th century.
These churches, all built from one single rock, are home to an array of other artifacts and scrolls and have housed the cross for most of its life, except when used for ceremonial purposes and one brief two year period in the late 1990’s.
The cross was stolen in March 1997 and was missing for over two years. An extensive manhunt spanning multiple continents ensued, and after multiple false leads and dead ends, the cross was found in a private collection, belonging to a business man from Belgium in 1999.
It was reported that the collector had purchased the cross from an antique dealer in Addis Ababa for around $25,000, and after the collectors money was returned, it was agreed that no further legal action would be taken.
In 2001, the Lalibela cross returned home, where it has remained to this day.
Discover the Lalibela Cross on these trips
Fusing history, culture, landscapes and wildlife along a perfectly paced circuit, this trip is a synthesis of the very best experiences on offer in Ethiopia’s northern highlands. Explorations of the ancient cities Axum, Gondar, Bahir Dar and Lalibela are broken…