19th June / Senay 12, is known as Senay Mikael and is an important Saint’s day across the country. But in Lalibela it is the most important holy day in Lalibela after Gena, for it is the anniversary of the death 797 years ago, of the Saint-King Lalibela, whose name the town has taken.

He is said to have died in 1221 and is renown as the architect of the amazing labyrinth of rock hewn churches which are the focus of the town of Lalibela, formerly known as Roha.

In 1181 when King Lalibela became King he took the thrown name Gebre Meskal (as Ras Tefari took the name Haile Selassie) and he died in 1221 at the age of 58/59. His tomb is in the church Golgota which adjoins Beta Mikael in the main cluster of churches in Lalibela, making this a very special double annual saint’s day.

On the eve of the big day, there will be singing and chanting around Bet Mikael and Golgotta and on the morning of the 19th the two tabots (Mikael and Lalibela) will be paraded out to a nearby tent with great pomp and celebration, and an hour or so after returned to the church.

There is also an especially big market today full of livestock and other local produce, even though it’s a Tuesday and not the usual Saturday market day.