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Hand-Held Cross

Origin Ethiopia
Title Hand-Held Cross
Date Unknown
Medium Iron
Dimensions Object: 9 × 2 1/2 × 1/4 in. (22.9 × 6.4 × 0.6 cm)
Overall: 9 × 2 1/2 × 1/4 in. (22.9 × 6.4 × 0.6 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Tom Joyce, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University
Accession Number 2005.321

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About this Work

Among the Coptic Christians of Ethiopia, hand-held crosses are owned by priests, who use them for blessings and in healings and offer them to their followers to be kissed. First recorded in the sixteenth century by Portuguese visitors to Ethiopia, the crosses are most often made of wood, but examples of silver, brass, iron, and leather are also known.
The actual cross, at the top, is frequently elaborated, as here. At the bottom, the square base is said to symbolize Christ’s tomb or the Ark of the Covenant, which Ethiopian Coptic Christians believe was brought to Ethiopia from Jerusalem by Menelik, the son of the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Provenance research is ongoing for this and many other items in the Eskenazi Museum of Art permanent collection. For more information about the provenance of this artwork, please contact the department curator with specific questions.

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"Hand-Held Cross | Collections Online." Collections Online. Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2024.