Processional cross

before 1868 (made)


Height: 28 cm, Width: 31 cm maximum

1733-1869 MET

Processional cross, brass, without socket, Ethiopia, before 1868.

Processional cross missing socket. Central cross within an openwork quatrefoil, surmounted by other crosses. Amharic inscription at centre on one face.

The vendor of this cross, Major Holland, probably acquired it via his involvement in a British expedition to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1868. The expedition was prompted by the capture of a number of Europeans, including the British consul Captain Cameron, by the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros II (Theodore), who had become frustrated with a lack of communication from Queen Victoria's government. The British response was a military expedition of huge complexity and expense led by Sir Robert Napier. The expedition marched to Tewodros's fortress at Maqdala where a brief battle took place. Britain won the conflict, but not before the captives were released and Tewodros himself had committed suicide. The vendor may have been Major Trevenen James Holland who, with a military colleague, Sir Henry Montague Hozier, provided the only official account of the expedition on the orders of the Secretary of State for War. Their Record of the Expedition to Abyssinia was published in two volumes in 1870. In the Ethiopian Orthodox church, crosses have always played an important role as symbols of resurrection and life. This cross is missing its hollow shaft which would have enabled it to be mounted on a long wooden pole and held by the priest during sacramental activities, services, and processions.

Accessions register entry: 'Processional cross. Abyssinian. Price £3.0.0. Purchased from Major Holland. Date of receipt from stores 26th April 1869.'

Location: In Storage

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