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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
  • Place Made: Ethiopia
  • DATES 13th or 14th century
    DIMENSIONS 10 × 4 3/4 × 1 in. (25.4 × 12.1 × 2.5 cm) mount (wall mount - m2): 10 × 4 3/4 × 7 in. (25.4 × 12.1 × 17.8 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    ACCESSION NUMBER 2000.95.1
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Eric Goode
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Cast bronze processional cross with rectangular openwork superstructure and socket with decagonal cross section. The superstructure has a central motif of five small cutout Greek crosses arranged in a larger Greek cross design. Two sets of three crosses form the vertical edges of the composition; three upper crosses appear to have broken off and been roughly sanded. Condition: Good overall
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Amhara artist. Processional Cross (qäqwami mäsqäl), 13th or 14th century. Copper alloy, 10 × 4 3/4 × 1 in. (25.4 × 12.1 × 2.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Eric Goode, 2000.95.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 2000.95.1_front_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE front, 2000.95.1_front_PS9.jpg., 2019
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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