Keeping the Faith: The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia

James Sasko

Dr. Todd Hartch History Department

Researching the churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia requires several key questions to begin the process: What are the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela? Why were these churches formed? Why are these churches significant? How were these churches able to help maintain Christianity in Ethiopia? What role do these churches serve today? These are the questions I sought to answer. After reading several sources and looking at the churches and their art, I came to the conclusion that these churches were a collection of eleven structures built around the 12th-13th centuries and were designed to help the Christian nation of Ethiopia maintain its Christian culture by providing structures of defense that served as refuge for Christians and their artifacts. By studying the spread of Islam in the region and Christianity in Ethiopia still today, I found that these churches were successful in this goal. They protected this faith from an invasion of another religion but creating religious zeal and a place to preserve artifacts that has been maintained still today. Today, these structures still serve as churches and a place of pilgrimage for Christians around the world and have expanded their role to also serve the people of Ethiopia economically. It is clear that these churches are vastly important to the cultural history of Ethiopia and to the Christian faith and will still be as the threat of Muslim violence continues in the future.

Semester/Year of Award

Fall 12-15-2017


Todd Hartch

Mentor Professional Affiliation


Access Options

Restricted Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level



History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies

Department Name when Degree Awarded