Pendant Cross

probably 18th–20th century
more object details

General Description

Pendant crosses have been in use in Ethiopia since at least the 15th century, when Emperor Zara Yacob decreed that all loyal subjects must demonstrate their Christian faith by wearing a cross. In his 16th-century account of the Portuguese Embassy's travels in Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia), the priest Francisco Alvares states that all laymen wore small crosses of black wood around their necks. However, the majority of surviving examples of pendant crosses are more recent, dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. These later pendant crosses were usually made of Maria Theresa thalers, Austrian silver coins which were a common currency throughout the Arabian peninsula and the Horn of Africa during the 19th century. The coins were melted down and re-cast as pendant crosses through the lost-wax process. Due to the use of the lost-wax process, no two pendant crosses are alike.

Drawn from

  • Jacopo Gnisci, Crosses from Ethiopia at the Dallas Museum of Art: An Overview, DMA unpublished material.

  • Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 264-266.

  • Csilla Fabo Perczel, "Ethiopian Crosses at the Portland Art Museum," African Arts 14.3 (May 1981): 52-55.