When young Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela was born into the Zagwe Dynasty in Ethiopia, the town of Lalibela was known as Roha. The name Lalibela was given to the young boy when he was surrounded by a swarm of bees soon after birth. His mother believed this was a sign that he would come to rule Ethiopia one day. His name literally means, "the bees recognize his sovereignty."
Lalibela is best known as the king who ordered the construction of 11 monolithic stone churches found in the town today. Lalibela's goal was to create a new Ethiopian Jerusalem, and he recreated many biblical scenes, such as the stable, out of carved rock. The Bete Giyorgis is by far the most spectacular of these churches. Carved out of the ground, and shaped from the inside out, it is one, unbroken piece of stone. Bete Giyorgis is connected to the other sunken stone churches through a series of elaborate tunnels.
These eleven solid rock churches, in the hills not far from the town, make Lalibela one of the holiest places in Ethiopia. Today, the site is considered one of the centers of pilgrimages for Ethiopian Christians.