Sacred Geometry Principles on the Construction of the Monolithic Rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela and its Structural Formations

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Addis Ababa University


Man imitates the nature to create his own output and builds many existing structures to symbolize his achievements. Analysing the forms, arrangements, symbols, and figures of the structures usually lead to new idea. One of the structures man strives to devote his wisdom are sacred buildings. All of creation evolves out of a sacred geometric patterns incorporated within the molecular seed structure. When these seed patterns are incorporated into our architecture, a vibration exchange takes place between the building and its occupants in a way that is similar to the connection we have with nature, and which leads to a sense of well being. Among many historical sacred sites being known Ethiopia is its rock-hewn churches. Rock hewn churches of Lalibela, carved into the rugged mountainsides below ground level and they are ringed by trenches and courtyards and connected to each other by a tangled maze of tunnels and passages. The rock churches constructed during the Zagwe dynasty also express the zenith of Ethiopian civilization. Many generations have been a part of this architecture which stands enormous reminding of that glorious past. Ethiopian architecture evolved in various ages in different parts and regions of the country. The emergence and decay of great empires and dynasties in the country, each in their way influenced the growth and shaped the evolution of Ethiopian architecture. Geometry has existed in many buildings and design forms across centuries. Geometric proportions in architectural patterns represent a design language, as words do in a spoken language. The visual expression of the order of these laws is best represented through the discipline of geometry. Geometry is the blueprint of the creation and the generator of all forms. Geometric ratios and proportions existed and were employed in the design and construction of Lalibela rock-hewn churches and ceremonial sites. They were invariably built with dimensions that incorporate mathematical numbers, constants and ratios such as the golden/sacred mean, and the use of geometries based on proportional circles, proportional rectangles and triangles. Sacred geometry is the geometry used in the planning and construction of religious structures such as temples, churches, mosques, religious monuments, altars and tabernacles. The research will address mainly on what principles of construction methods adopted? Investigating the construction sequencing (built up or built down?), (either in-out caving or out-in caving?), structural formations and geometry of the monolithic churches. The methodology used for the available resources will be by field study, measurement and taking as built drawings and studies. Finally this research ends with conclusion and opening recommendations for further investigations. By an overview of the main architectural features of the churches of Lalibela, and of the decorations that are carved on their surfaces, considerations come to mind how little it is known of the 12th century Ethiopian art! Key Words: Church, Construction sequence, Geometric proportion, Lalibela, Monolithic, Rock-hewn, Sacred geometry, Structural arrangements and Zagwe dynasty.



Church, Construction sequence, Geometric proportion, Lalibela, Monolithic, Rock-hewn, Sacred geometry, Structural arrangements and Zagwe dynasty