Its entrance flanked by a sloping sliver of rock known as the ‘Way to Heaven’, this imposing twin-church marks the main entrance to the southeastern group. Unlike most Lalibela churches its entrance is at the top and it’s accessed by a small walkway, high over the moat-like trench. This, along with its curious, irregular floor plan and non-east-west orientation, has led scholars to propose that it may have been a fortified palace for Aksumite royalty as early as the 7th century.
The entrance takes you into Bet Gabriel and then another doorway accesses Bet Rufael. Although the section of Bet Rufael’s roof that collapsed has been rebuilt, services only take place in Bet Gabriel. Once inside the surprisingly small complex you’ll realise its monumental facade was its most interesting feature.