Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela

Ethiopia
Factors affecting the property in 1996*
  • Management activities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Water (rain/water table)
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

Need for restoration and rehabilitation of the monuments

International Assistance: requests for the property until 1996
Requests approved: 2 (from 1980-1996)
Total amount approved : 88,300 USD
Missions to the property until 1996**

1995: 2 European Union funded experts missions 

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1996

The following remarks can be made on the state of conservation of the site concerning:

A. The restoration of the site: a lengthy process

- The site of Lalibela has been the object of several restoration campaigns; the main problem having been and still is the deterioration of the monolithic stone roofs of certain churches during the rainy season, as well as cracks in the exposed facades of several monuments. Three successive campaigns were carried out: in 1920, in 1954 and in 1966-68 under the direction of Sandro Angelini. It is highly probable that the first restorations of 1920 and 1954, which were undertaken in haste, without scientific precautions and with recourse to the excessive use of cement, aggravated the situation; Sandro Angelini was obliged to correct the most negative aspects of these first campaigns.

- At the present time, several churches are protected by zinc roofing mounted on wooden scaffolding (the most recent is the one covering Beta Madhane Alam, constructed in the framework of the FINNIDA project). Although they fulfill their purpose, these roofs and scaffolding considerably disfigure the monuments and must be considered as temporary stopgap measures whilst awaiting a veritable restoration which is stressed by all concerned as a matter of urgency.

- Another challenge is the drainage problem, in an area of deep excavations where water rushes in and stagnates. The traditional drainage system often becomes obstructed and should be cleaned and improved.

B. The management of the site and the harmonization of current projects

The CRCCH has a representative at the site, but there are other partners as well:

- the Ethiopian Church, in its different components, in particular the clergy of the churches of Lalibela, about 500 strong, who have formed a committee placed under the authority of the patriarchy of Addis Ababa and Dessie;

- two projects with international financing are underway today in Lalibela: the project entitled "Restoration and Preservation of the Churches of Lalibela", financed by the European Union (2 million Ecus) began in 1994; a second project, financed by the FINNIDA, is responsible for the rehabilitation of the site, in particular its urban environment (2.2 million dollars over a four-year period): [drainage, réalisation d'un plan directeur pour la ville] improvement of the living conditions of the religious community.

Presently, the main difficulty encountered by the CRCCH seems to be the harmonization of the different projects and coordination between the partners, and, to date, the restoration still has not begun. The situation in Lalibela is extremely delicate. Several measures could be taken, on two different levels:

1) from the scientific research point of view, which is perhaps not sufficiently taken into consideration in the current international projects, we can recommend:

- a sociological study on the religious function of the city today, which would allow a better understanding of the organization of the clergy, the role of the site for the faithful and its frequentation as a sacred place, for the framework of a project for developing the site;

- documentary and archivistic research on the evolution of the site over a century, compiling all the available documentation on the different restoration campaigns. This documentation, together with all the data on Lalibela, should be deposited at the CRCCH in Addis Ababa and at the site itself;

2) It would also be advisable that the role of the CRCCH, as coordinator of the restoration projects currently underway, be strengthened and that it ensure, in accordance with the principles of the Global Strategy, that the activities on the site are not limited to interventions on the monuments. The CRCCH and the World Heritage Centre could participate in the creation of a structure for reflection and management of the restoration and development projects of the site of Lalibela, calling upon the local partners to assist in defining a common strategy.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 1996

The Bureau may wish to transmit the report to the Committee and recommend that it adopt the following text:

"The Committee feels that it is especially important to ensure coordination of the work between all the national and international partners engaged in the activities of conservation and preservation of this World Heritage site. It considers that the Centre for Research and Conservation of the Cultural Heritage (CRCCH) should assume this coordination and ensure that, in accordance with the principles of the Global Strategy, the activities on the site are not limited to interventions on the monuments. It therefore appears indispensable to take into consideration the aspects of the living culture by associating the entire ecclesiastic hierarchy in the efforts made to preserve and enhance this site. It requests the Ethiopian authorities to keep the World Heritage Centre informed of the actions that will be taken to this effect before the 21st session of the Committee in December 1997."

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 1996
20 EXT.BUR A.1.3
Annex 7-International Assistance requests approved by the Bureau-Ethiopia

CULTURAL HERITAGE

A.1 TECHNICAL CO-OPERATION

A.1.3 Lalibela; Fasil Ghebi; Lower Valley of the Awash; Tiya; Aksum and Valley of of the Omo (Ethiopia) (US$ 27,500 requested)

Considering the quality and the well-chosen small-scale activities which are already partly funded by the Centre for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (CRCCH) , and in order to backstop the remarkable achievements and commitments of CRCCH to conservation,

the Bureau approved an amount of US$ 27,500. Support from the World Heritage Fund will permit the funding of international experts to examine the studies and restoration programmes for Lalibela, to improve the presentation of Tiya and organize an in-situ training course in Gondar.
 

20 COM VII.D.49/51
SOC: Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela (Ethiopia)

VII.49 Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela (Ethiopia)

The Secretariat underlined the complementarity of the projects implemented by the Division of Cultural Heritage and the Centre. It reported that fields requiring particular attention are:

1. the restoration of the site: particularly the protection of the roofs and the drainage systems ;

2. the management of the site and the harmonization of current projects. Presently, the main difficulty encountered by the national authorities seems to be the harmonization of the different projects and coordination between the partners. Several precise recommendations are made in the state of conservation report regarding scientific research, the role of the Centre for Research and Conservation of the Cultural Heritage of Ethiopia as the coordinator of the restoration projects including development projects in and around the site of Lalibela.

The Committee felt that it is especially important to ensure coordination of the work between all the national and international partners engaged in the activities of conservation and preservation of this World Heritage site. It considered that the Centre for Research and Conservation of the Cultural Heritage (CRCCH) should assume this coordination and ensure that, in accordance with the principles of the Global Strategy, the activities on the site are not limited to interventions on the monuments. It therefore appeared indispensable to take into consideration the aspects of the living culture by associating the entire ecclesiastic hierarchy in the efforts made to preserve and enhance this site. It requested the Ethiopian authorities to keep the World Heritage Centre informed of the actions that will be taken to this effect before 15 September 1997 so that this information can be examined by the Committee at its twenty-first session.

Report year: 1996
Ethiopia
Date of Inscription: 1978
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 20COM (1996)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


top