Saint Lalibela was born on December 29 (on the day our Lord was born), on 1101 A.D., in Rota, Lasta Bugna Woreda from his father Jean Seyoum, and his mother Kirworna. Saint Michael had already told his mother about her son’s birth. When he was born, many white bees came and landed on his body like honey, so his mother called him Lalibela. In Agaw Lal means bees. Even though his mother didn’t understand at the time the bees, however, they were angelic bees. The angels came to him like bees, to prophesy that the honey of religion and morality is going to be taken from him.
The last Axumite King, Dil Naod, employed a famous general from Lasta Roha named Mera Teklahaimanot, who married his daughter, Mesobe Work. When Dil Naod died without a male successor, Mera Teklahaimanot became king and moved the seat of the empire to Lasta. Here, he founded the Zagwe Dynasty 11 kings who ruled Ethiopia for 333 years. King Lalibela was the most famous of the 11 Zagwe monarchs.
Saint Lalibela from younger age used to drink kosho (bitter leaf) every Friday in remembrance of the bitter gall that our Lord and savior Eyesus Kristos drank on the cross. One day Saint Gabriel took King Lalibela to Jerusalem and showed him all the monasteries and saints living there. Then He took him to heaven, and showed him the seven heavens where angels and saints greeted him with reverence and joy. At the seventh heaven, Our Lord and Savior appeared before Lalibela and told him, my people are traveling to Jerusalem from Ethiopia to see the place of my suffering and they are dying on their way, but now you are ordained to build Jerusalem in the city of Roha, Ethiopia. Then Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kirstos described the detail of the rock buildings to Lalibela.
After Lalibela became king, he prayed to find out the place where the temple was to be built. When he was in his prayer King Lalibela saw a golden pillar of light being placed at the site now called “Bete Mariam” the house of Mariam, and he saw angels ascending and descending. Knowing that the place was God’s will, Lalibela began to work. Our Lord and Savior again said to King Lalibela at the time of his prayer “Lalibela, remember: I am the one who builds the temples, not you, but I let it be called by your name.” When Lalibela built the ten temples, he found that if he built one inch today, He found it ten inches long the next morning. During the day, also, the Holy Angels were helping him in the form of strangers. Bete Mariam (House of Mary) was the first church to be built by King Lalibela. The salutation to the church saying “May peace be upon you Holy Place, the likeness of Heavenly Jerusalem” started at this time.
Finally, after King Lalibela finished building the churches according to the instructions of our Lord the King fasted and prayed for 7 years, carrying ten kilograms of rock on his right, and left hand. Our Lord appeared to him and reaffirmed His promise to him. Anyone who gives a salutation to the temples that you have built; I will accept him as he saluted Jerusalem. King Lalibela departed from this world on the day of Saint Michael Sene 12 (June 19).
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen !