Hand-held Cross

DATE:
probably 18th–20th century
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Silver alloy, cast
CLASSIFICATION:
Sculpture
DIMENSIONS:
8 3/4 × 4 3/16 × 3/8 in. (22.23 × 10.64 × 0.95 cm)
DEPARTMENT:
Arts of Africa
LOCATION:
Not On View
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Hebe Redden and Dr. Kenneth Redden
OBJECT NUMBER:
1991.352.129

General Description

Hand-held crosses have been in use in Ethiopia for centuries, and are an integral part of the practice of Ethiopian Christianity. The crosses are made of cast metal or hand-carved wood, and most often are comprised of a cross of equal-length arms, a short handle, and a square base. Some scholars have suggested the square base represents the tabot, the consecrated slab identified with the Ark of the Covenant, and the tablets of law it contained. Hand-held crosses belong to individual priests, who use them to perform benedictions, in which the crosses avert evil and invoke divine blessings. These blessings occur not only within the context of worship, but also in priests' day-to-day interactions with lay people. The name of this cross's owner, "qäšši wäldä," is inscribed in Amharic, a later form of the Ethiopic language.

Drawn from

  • Jacopo Gnisci, Crosses from Ethiopia at the Dallas Museum of Art: An Overview, DMA unpublished material, 2016.

  • 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, UK: Third Millennium Publishing, 2001), 75.

  • Csilla Fabo Perczel, DMA Unpublished material, 1992.

Web Resources