Arts of Africa
On View: African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
Christianity most likely arrived in Ethiopia in the first century. The conversion of King Ezana in 330 c.e. led to its official acceptance and the minting of coins bearing one of the earliest uses of the cross as a Christian symbol. Although the silver pendant crosses in the Museum’s collection are from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, their forms have a considerably longer history, as the much older copper, wood, and iron crosses here demonstrate.
Hand crosses, which are used by priests, are either hand-held or suspended from a cord around the neck. They are kissed by the faithful to receive a blessing. Processional crosses are carried on long poles in religious processions. Prayer staffs are used to mark rhythms during sacred dances and as supports to lean on while standing for long hours during Orthodox church services. Together, all of these crosses are emblems of the Ethiopian Orthodox church’s ongoing authority.
19th or 20th century
Gift of George V. Corinaldi Jr.
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Amhara. Pendant Cross, 19th or 20th century. Silver, 2 1/4 x 1 3/8 in. (5.7 x 3.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of George V. Corinaldi Jr., 79.72.27. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 79.72.27_front_PS6.jpg)
front, 79.72.27_front_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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Silver neck cross in the form of a Latin cross with applique decoration composed of small circles on the arms. There is one large circle in the center. Attached to the superior arm is a ring for suspension. On the back, a very thin line cross appears in relief.
Condition: Good. Decoration shows evidence of wear.
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