U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the Completion of Conservation Work at Bete Golgotha Mikael
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
November 21, 2018
(As prepared for delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen
In February, I visited Lalibela for the first time, and had the honor to launch the second U.S. Embassy cultural preservation project in Lalibela, the preservation of Bete Golgotha Mikael.
At the time, I said that visiting the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela was something I’d always dreamed of doing, and I’ve since returned to Lalibela with my family to experience these breathtaking churches more fully.
Today I’m extremely happy and honored to return to Lalibela once again to celebrate the completion of this important conservation project.
Over the past six years, the rock-hewn churches at Lalibela have been the focus of two projects sponsored by the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.
In the first project, at Bete Gabriel and Rafael, we pioneered innovative and non-intrusive techniques to help restore and preserve these churches — techniques which were then used again at Bete Golgotha Mikael.
The goal of these projects was to do conservation work that was lasting, but as discreet and subtle as possible – to preserve the churches while minimizing the traces of that preservation work, and to respect at all times the character of these sacred places.
Traditional, lime-based mortar from Ambo was used in the preservation work at Bete Golgotha Mikael, and the innovative stone conservation methodologies have been recorded in technical guidelines so that they can be replicated at other sites in Ethiopia and around the world.
Equally important, both of the U.S. Embassy-supported projects at Lalibela involved training local craftsmen in these new stone conservation methods, expanding the capacity of Ethiopians to care for and preserve their heritage.
I’m delighted that we have the craftsmen who worked on Bete Golgotha Mikael here with us today.
I would like to ask them to please stand, so we can acknowledge their outstanding work and commitment.
Thank you so much.
This group of craftsmen always had the passion and commitment to care for these magnificent churches, and now they are better equipped with the knowledge, skills, and training to carry out this important work.
And they can bring these skills to bear not only in maintaining the churches preserved under the U.S. Embassy projects, but also on other churches at Lalibela as well.
We take great care to ensure that all of the cultural preservation projects supported by the U.S. Embassy incorporate the training of local craftsmen, because we want these projects to be not only an investment in Ethiopia’s rich cultural heritage, but also an investment in Ethiopia’s capacity to protect and preserve that heritage for future generations.
The U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation project at Bete Golgotha Mikael was an effort involving many partners:
- The Ministry of Culture and Tourism
- The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church
- Lalibela Churches and Local Church Committee
- The Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage
- The Amhara Region Bureau of Culture and Tourism
- The Lalibela City Administration
- The Ethiopian Institute for Architecture, Building Construction, and City Development
- Addis Ababa University
- And the World Monuments Fund
It has been an honor to work with you all on such an important project.
Six years ago, we joined together on a mission to develop new conservation methods that can preserve the churches of Lalibela in a non-intrusive way, to ensure that these priceless structures are not only preserved, but can continue to function as beautiful, authentic, living churches – just as they have for centuries.
As we celebrate the completion of our joint project at Bete Golgotha Mikael, we also celebrate the strong partnerships that made it possible.
Thank you for the honor of allowing the U.S. government and people to be a part of the important effort to preserve this irreplaceable cultural heritage for generations to come.