Lalibela - once the capitol of the Axumit Empire - is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities, second only to Aksum. With its 11 monolithic rock-hewn monateries the city of Lalibela is the center of pilgrimage for a significant portion of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians (the vast majority of the population).
King Lalibela is said to have built a New Jerusalem as his capital in response to the capture of old Jerusalem by Muslims in 1187. As such, many features of the town of Lalibela have Biblical names - even the town's river is known as the River Jordan. The 11 medieval rock-hewn churches are believed to have been built during Lalibela's reign or just after in the late 12th / early 13th Centuries AD. All are grouped into a single UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2007 they were named one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World". Of the 100 or so top-echelon archaeological sites I have visited, Lalibela is my 3rd most favorite (after Abu Simbel, Egypt and Petra, Jordan and before the Great Pyramid).
The Church of St. George (Amharic: Bete Giyorgis) is the most well known and last built (early thirteenth century) of the 11 rock-hewn churches. The dimensions of the complex are 25 meters by 25 meters by 30 meters, and there is a small baptismal pool outside the church, which stands in an artificial trench. Like most of the other monastery churches in Lalibela Bete Giyorgis is entirely monolihic, meaning it was freed entirely from the surrounding rock from the top down. It has weathered the test of time much better than the other ten churches due to the unique sloping room and the embedded cross-relief drainage system.
According to Ethiopian cultural history, Bete Giyorgis was built after King Lalibela had a dream in which he was instructed by Saint George himself to construct the church in his honor.