The Na’akuto La‘ab Monastery in Lalibela
The Na'akuto La'ab Monastery in the highlands outside Lalibela, is attributed to Na’akuto La’ab, the successor to King Lalibela. King Lalibela was responsible for the development of the rock-hewn churches in central Lalibela, and the famous Bete Giyorgis church at their epicentre. However, those who head to the surrounding mountains can discover monasteries built in secluded crevasses, miles from anyone, and these churches pre-date those in the centre of town.
It is believed that Na’akuto La’ab usurped the throne from the King Lalibela, having rallied rebel elements within the Aksumite society, but was subsequently overthrown by Lalibela’s son not long thereafter. The monastery was almost definitely built in the same place as a significantly older shrine, and the red-brick building in the monastery’s interior was built by Empress Zewditu.
Inside, there are various artefacts believed to have belonged to Na’akuto La’ab, including crowns, gold-painted drums, crosses, a large painted canvas depicting ancient kings and an old, illuminated Bible. Intriguingly, the monastery has some ancient stone receptacles that gather the water that drips from the cave’s roof, thought to be holy water.
The atmosphere of the monastery is also enhanced by the fact that there are Christian priests still living here. There is something quite amazing about seeing a centuries-old religious tradition still happening today. What’s more, the priests are friendly and happy to show you around the place.
The Na'akuto La'ab Monastery is one of a collection of ancient churches and monasteries found in the highlands that encircle Lalibela - other notable churches in the area are Asheton Maryam and Yemrehane Krestos.
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