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Hand Cross

Arts of Africa

On View: African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
Ethiopian Crosses
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.
CULTURE Amhara
MEDIUM Silver
  • Place Made: Ethiopia
  • DATES 19th or 20th century
    DIMENSIONS 11 1/2 x 3 3/4 in. (29.2 x 9.6 cm)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
    ACCESSION NUMBER 88.192.4
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin H. Williams
    CAPTION Amhara. Hand Cross, 19th or 20th century. Silver, 11 1/2 x 3 3/4 in. (29.2 x 9.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin H. Williams, 88.192.4. Creative Commons-BY
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Ethiopian silver hand cross. Upper section of overall diamond shape pierced. Solid shaft has circular section and two vertical rows of nicklike incisions on each side. Down centers of sides are rows of incised Xs flanked on top and bottom by a dot and four horizontal lines. Shaft joins a two-part terminus consisting of a pierced, 4-lobed, diamond shaped elements and a square. The square has 3 circular vertical elements, a pierced interlace pattern, and a solid central area with an inscription on one side and angel's head and wings on the other. Condition: Some tarnish; otherwise, good.
    RECORD COMPLETENESS Meh (36%)
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