- Museum number
Processional cross; brass. Cast hollow shaft decorated with a rectangular panel of intricate interlaced designs front and back and tapers to a triangular point. Two squared lower arms extend out from the centre of the shaft to the top. The lower arms are decorated with herring-bone designs and with two finial crosses on the lower edge. The body of the cross is supported in a slot in the top of the shaft and is secured in place with a nail; two further nails set within quatrefoils attach the cross to the lower arms. The diamond shaped body of the cross if formed by a central patée cross with extensively flared arms which join at the corners. Engraved with figurative images front and back.
- Production date
Length: 12.25 inches (slip catalogue)
Length: 31.50 centimetres
Width: 21 centimetres
Depth: 2.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Engraved with Christian religious images. On the front, the flared arms are each decorated and edged with interlacing representations of snakes on a ground of punched circular designs and with a finial cross. The central panel is engraved with, clockwise from left; Saint Michael with striped wings and sword, Jesus holding a scroll or book, Mary, Saint Gabriel, Matthew, John, Luke and Mark [?] all bearded and holding books.
On the back, the flared arms are edged with scrolled serpentine motifs and decorated with pateé crosses on a ground of punched circular designs, with a finial cross. The uppermost arm has a central cross with Ge'ez inscription. The central panel is engraved with twelve haloed, bearded men representing the Apostles.
Part of a collection of material taken from the fortress of Emperor Tewedros II (reigned 1855-1868) at Maqdala during the Abyssinian Campaign (1867-1868). Tewodros had sought to bring the whole of Ethiopia under his control through military campaigns. During these conquests, he took books, holy relics and manuscripts from churches throughout Ethiopia, and particularly from Gondar, with the intention of establishing Maqdala as a seat of learning and research. By 1868, the treasury and church store included hundreds of manuscripts and many fine examples of liturgical objects and art including textiles, paintings, and metal work.
The British Expedition to Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) 1867-1868 culminated in a military assault on Maqdala on 13 April 1868. Tewodros committed suicide, rather than be taken prisoner. Hundreds of his soldiers were killed and many thousands injured. The treasury, church and royal household were plundered by the British and Indian troops. Maqdala was destroyed by military order on 17 April 1868. Much of the plundered material was reassembled by an Army Prize Committee and sold at an auction of loot on the nearby Delanta Plain, 20 – 21 April 1868.
Richard Holmes participated in the Abyssinia Expedition as ‘archaeologist’ and official representative of the British Museum. He was one of the first people to enter Maqdala with the military force. He participated directly in the plundering. He purchased objects from soldiers and at the official sale of loot on behalf of the British Museum.
See Collection File Af1868,1001.1-32
- Not on display
- Good. The shaft has been repaired
- Associated events
Associated Event: Abyssinian Campaign 1867 - 1868
Associated Event: Battle of Maqdala (13 April 1868)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- May have been purchased at the sale of loot on the Delanta Plain 20-21 April 1868; may have been looted by Holmes from Maqdala on 13 April 1868. Holmes purchased five crosses at the sale of loot, he did not describe them in detail. Holmes also took objects immediately after the British and Indian troops entered Maqdala. Most of these he was given permission by Sir Robert Napier (Commander in Chief of the Abyssinian Campaign) to keep, rather than hand over the Army Prize Committee for auction. In total, Holmes acquired six crosses for the British Museum from Maqdala. See letter from R Holmes to J Winter Jones, 22nd April 1868 (British Museum Central Archive, Original Papers Volume 94, April to July 1868, no.5376) and 'List of articles purchased for the British Museum at the sale of the plunder of Magdala 20 and 21 April 1868', R. Holmes (British Museum Central Archive, Original Papers Volume 94, April to July 1868).
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number