St. George is everywhere in Ethiopia. He’s a saint. And he’s a big deal. It seems kind of odd to me that a guy named George, who also happens to be the patron saint of England, but he’s a big deal in Ethiopia.
There’s a beer named after him.
A prominent football club in Addis is named after him.
And there are two beautiful churches in Ethiopia that are named after him. There’s the St. George Cathedral in Addis Ababa. And there’s also the rock-hewn, cross-shaped church in Lalibela. It’s also named for St. George. Shaped like a cross, this sanctuary was carved out of one giant rock and it’s one of eleven monolithic church buildings in Lalibela. And it’s not only a national treasure, but a world treasure. The story goes that the emperor who commissioned the construction of this amazing building was inspired by a mystical visit from St. George.
While I’ve been to Ethiopia three separate times, I’ve never been to Lalibela. I would love to visit. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity when we return to Ethiopia. Hopefully, that’ll be sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I’ll just have to find inspiration from photos that my pal, Marshall, took a few years ago. Be sure to check them out.
So who is this St. George? The legends differ, but he was some type of Christian warrior in the 4th century who was traveling on horseback through a town – possibly Beirut, possibly in Libya, possibly somewhere else – when he discovered that a dragon was terrorizing the town. In order to appease the dragon, the citizens fed the beast two sheep a day. When they ran out, they started offering their daughters as sacrifice. George defeated the dragon. The community was saved. And they converted to Christ.
Many believe the spirit of St. George helped the overmatched Ethiopian army defeat the Italian army in the Battle of Adwa.
So he’s a pretty big deal in Ethiopia.