Thinking ‘out of the box’

Posted on: March 5th, 2018 by Staffan Engstrom

I worked for many years in one of the UK’s largest international construction companies, so was fascinated when travelling recently in Northern Ethiopia*, to find the novel way of ‘building’ churches adopted by King Lalibela in the 12th Century. After Jerusalem was captured by Saladin in 1187, Lalibela needed a new place for pilgrims to go, so he created this ‘new’ Jerusalem for them.

Here is what he did:

Step 1. Recruit 40,000 labourers and craftsmen and mark out the perimeter of the ‘building’ on the ground.

Step 2. Dig down into the solid rock a 5m wide trench to a depth of 11-16 metres.

Step 3. Locate the doorway of the ‘building’ and dig into it.

Step 4Hollow it out from the inside, and carve the inside exquisitely. Key tip:  Don’t make any mistakes.

The result is a monolithic, one piece building, one of 11 in Lalibela. It’s amazing to see King Lalibela’s strategy in bringing peace to his people, saving thousands of lives in fruitless and very dangerous pilgrimages to the captured Jerusalem.

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*We were in Ethiopia looking at the outstanding work of Tearfund there. They are a faith-based charity which is very focussed on making a practical difference to people’s lives. They have a brilliant strategy for doing that. If you would like to, you can make a donation here.