Cave churches and rockcut churches

During the medieval period, and probably already in Late Aksumite times, there developed the habit of building churches within large caves. Perhaps from this developed the practice first of enclosing cave openings and building a church behind, and then of actually cutting into the rock face to carve out a church, or cutting down into the bedrock to construct a subterranean church. The most famous of these monolithic churches are indubitably those of Lalibala, though similar churches do exist all over the Central Highlands. The Lalibala churches are believed to have been constructed in imitation of the holy places of Jerusalem as a substitute place of pilgrimage when travel to the Holy Land proved too arduous and difficult. The Lalibala churches copy exactly the features of normal church architecture of the period, including interior columns, windows and relief decoration on the walls and vaulted ceilings.

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