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Cultural Crossroads Ethiopia’s New Jerusalem Chester Higgins Jr.


CULTURAL CROSSROADS

Ethiopia’s New Jerusalem

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS © CHESTER HIGGINS, JR.

Since the fourth century, Christianity has thrived throughout Ethiopia, particularly in the town of Lalibela, home of 12 extraordinary ancient churches BY CHESTER HIGGINS, JR.

I

N 1973, ON MY FIRST VISIT TO ADDIS

Ababa, Ethiopia, I photographed the Emperor His Majesty Haile Selassie. Pulled back to the country by the legend of Lalibela and the piety of its people, I returned there the next year to broaden my knowledge by photographing the countryside and its people. I have been back a dozen times since, most recently in December 2007; my next trip to

tians were determined to conthis special, sacred country is Priests enter the rock-cut Church struct a “New Jerusalem.” They slated for this December. renamed a nearby river Jordan A millennium after the birth of St. Giyorgis and built 12 churches in a village of Jesus Christ, Arab armies (St. George) in Lalibela. they called Lalibela. Those mondescended upon neighboring uments stand today as testament Sudan, destroyed its churches, and forced the conquered Christians to to their faith and resolve. To protect the churches from invading convert to Islam. Cut off from their northern pilgrimage route to Jerusalem through what Arab armies, the people of Lalibela built was now Arab territory, the Ethiopian Chris- them belowground, carving them from

WINTER 2009

AMERICAN LEGACY

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Cultural Crossroads