Among the Coptic Christians of Ethiopia, hand 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.
19th or 20th century
L. 9 in. (22.9 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Gift of Tom Joyce, 2005.321