Processional cross

probably 18th–20th century
Wood, carved
Overall: 9 x 4 3/4 in. (22.86 x 12.06 cm.)
Arts of Africa
Not On View
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Hebe Redden and Dr. Kenneth Redden

General Description

Processional crosses have been in use in Ethiopia since at least the 12th century. They are commonly made of bronze, or less commonly, of iron or silver, and cast by the lost-wax process. In the Ethiopian Orthodox liturgy, processional crosses play a fundamental role: during worship, priests use the crosses, mounted on poles, to bless the congregation, the baptismal water, the sacraments, and the four corners of the church. When taken out of the church and carried in religious processions, they create dramatic silhouettes against the sky.

As the only liturgical object visible to worshippers during the celebration of mass, Ethiopian processional crosses tend to be elaborate. Various frames and finials often adorn the central cross, which may be further enriched with incised or stamped decoration.

Drawn from

  • Jacopo Gnisci, "Crosses from Ethiopia at the Dallas Museum of Art: An Overview," African Arts 51, no. 4_ _(Winter 2018): 48–55.

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

  • C. Griffith Mann, "The Role of the Cross in Ethiopian Culture," in Ethiopian Art: the Walters Art Museum, ed. Deborah E. Horowitz (Surrey: Third Millennium Publishing, 2001), 75.

  • Csilla Fabo Perczel, "Art and Liturgy: Abyssinian Processional Crosses," Northeast African Studies 5.1 (1983): 19-28.

Web Resources

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    Read more about Ethiopian processional crosses.

  • YouTube (Associated Press Archive)
    See processional crosses in use during Timkat (Epiphany) celebrations in Gondor, Ethiopia.