Greek cross

In the Spotlight: the St. George Cross

Bet Giyorgis church Lalibela. Photo by Armin Hamm, via Wikimedia Commons.

This cross is a design replica of the cross pattern inscribed on the roof of an 11th century cave church dedicated to St. George, which was carved directly out of solid stone in Lalibela, Ethiopia.

In the 11th century, Lalibela had a vision in which he was instructed by God to create a”New Jerusalem.”  If he built churches, he would be made king. The 12 churches of Lalibela were each carved from stone and took a mere 23 years to be completed.  One story surrounding the churches tells that after Lalibel had retired for the day, angels continued to carve out the structures at night, helping to expedite the process.  Lalibela was, in fact, made king and is one of the few Ethiopian kings to have been canonized.

Of these churches, Biete Ghiorgis (or, “The House of St. George) is the most celebrated.  Carved into the shape of a cruciform, this artistic and architectural feat was the last church to be completed.  Our St. George Cross is a replica of the Biete Ghiorgis’ shape and the simple, yet bold, design can be found on the roof of the church.


Biete Ghiorgis and the other 11 churches will be profiled in the upcoming six-part PBS series “Africa’s Great Civilizations” which premiers on Monday, February 27th. You do not want to miss this exploration of, in the words of host Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., these “…astonishing feat[s] of construction, design, and imagination.”  For more information on this series, please visit

Want a sneak peek of the new series? Check out this wonderful video below (which talks about the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, including Biete Ghiorgis).

(If you are unable to view the video below, click here to view it directly on Facebook.  You should not need a Facebook account to watch the video) 


Explore 12 churches that were carved out of rock in the ancient Ethiopian highlands. #AfricasCivilizationsPBS premieres Feb. 27 on PBS.

Posted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on Sunday, February 19, 2017

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