In this view of the 13th century Church of Bet Giorgis, it is evident that the bedrock on the south edge of the basin (left) was lowered and leveled to form a platform of sorts.
I assume the level area permitted spectators to observe, or at least
hear, events taking place on the floor of the basin, which might have
included prayers, sermons, and religious processions, music and songs.
Note: The upper right section of this photo immediately above the church roof used to show a dirt road (definitely not a simple foot path) and what looked like a large field of gravel.
In the interest of trying to show how the building and it environs might have appeared several centuries ago, I have eliminated the road and gravel with Photoshop CS3.
Something tells me the hillsides in the valley behind the church might have been forested when Lalibela was at its peak. I haven't tried to reproduce that with Photoshop.
The original, unprocessed photo showed a range of low hills in the distance, and cloudy sky with rays of sunlight coming through a break in the overcast. It was quite scenic.
Of course, since I set the exposure to capture the pretty sky, the foreground, which contains the church, was black. I spent several hours in fruitless attempts to increase the exposure in the foreground while preserving the detail in the sky. No go. At best, the image looked like a Mars Rover took it. At worst, the photo resembled a poor quality hand-tinted postcard from about 1910.
So I put away the processing toys and settled for increasing the exposure, then adding a bit of contrast, and the result is what you see here. Fortunately, I did capture the dramatic sky in a in image a few photos back.
According to the Web site sacredsites.com,
"The most remarkable of the Lalibela churches, called Bet Giorgis, is dedicated to St. George, the patron saint of Ethiopia."
"According to legend, when King Lalibela had almost completed the group of churches which God had instructed him to build, Saint George appeared (in full armor and riding his white horse) and sharply reproached the king for not having constructed a house for him. Lalibela promised to build a church more beautiful than all the others for the saint."
"The church of Bet Giorgis is a nearly perfect cube, hewn in the shape of a cross, and is oriented so that the main entrance is in the west and the holy of holies in the east. The nine windows of the bottom row are blind; the twelve windows above are functional."
"One of the most sophisticated details of Bet Giorgis is that the wall thickness increases step by step downwards but that the horizontal bands of molding on the exterior walls cleverly hide the increase."
"The roof decoration, often used today as the symbol of the Lalibela monuments, is a relief of three equilateral Greek crosses inside each other. The church is set in a deep pit with perpendicular walls and it can only be entered via a hidden tunnel carved in the stone."