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Processional Cross (qäqwami mäsqäl)

Arts of Africa

The African Kingdom of Aksum (present-day Ethiopia) adopted Christianity around 330 C.E., not long after the religion was first legalized in the Roman empire. Its artists have demonstrated extraordinary creativity in making crosses, which the Ethiopian Orthodox Church links both to Jesus’s Crucifixion and to the Tree of Life mentioned in the Book of Genesis. This interpretation is reflected in the foliate and natural forms present in this group of processional crosses. The elaborate interlaced motifs here first emerged during the medieval era. The cross on the right features incised images of archangels, saints, and the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child.

The symbol of the cross unites Christian communities worldwide and, like their Italian Catholic counterparts, Ethiopian Orthodox priests would have originally carried these crosses atop staffs for use during the liturgy and processions.
CULTURE Amhara artist
MEDIUM Copper alloy
  • Possible Place Made: Lalibela, Ethiopia
  • DATES late 15th or early 16th century
    DIMENSIONS 11 1/2 x 7 3/16 in. (29.0 x 18.3 cm)  (show scale)
    INSCRIPTIONS (in Ge'ez) Michael, Gabriel, Mary, and her Child; (obverse) Peter, Paul, and [illegible]
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 81.163.2
    CREDIT LINE Gift of George V. Corinaldi Jr.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Amhara artist. Processional Cross (qäqwami mäsqäl), late 15th or early 16th century. Copper alloy, 11 1/2 x 7 3/16 in. (29.0 x 18.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of George V. Corinaldi Jr., 81.163.2. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 81.163.2_front_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE front, 81.163.2_front_PS9.jpg., 2019
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