- Museum number
The Patée cross is cast in bronze and gilded. It has extensively flared arms which join at the corners producing four ovoid holes known as doves' eyes. The outer edge has four finial crosses, two centrally placed to the left and right and two at the top corners. The finial cross from the top edge is missing. The lower arm of the cross has a small round lobe on each corner with a central round hole. The lobe to the left is split open from the centre outwards and the one to the right has a small nail which passes through the central hole. A central raised bar runs from the centre of the cross, front and back, along the shaft to the top of the square shaped base. The base has a finial cross at each corner. The finial cross in the centre of the bottom edge is missing.
The body of the cross is engraved with holy images.
Front, from top, clockwise; the Crucifixion of Christ, the moon, Saint John, Stephaton offering Christ vinegar on a sponge, Longinus spearing Christ's side, Mary with her hands raised in grief weeping, the sun. The cross is also engraved with seven angels and floral motifs.
Back, clockwise from top; the burial of Christ with, the resurrection of Christ who is shown with halo and pendant surrounded by angels, figure of the donor with arms crossed with Ge'ez inscription above, Saint George on horseback slaying a dragon. There are also nine angels and various floral motifs.
The square base of the cross is engraved on the front with the Virgin Mary seated holding the infant Christ on her lap. Christ holds a book and extends his hand in blessing. Above to the left and right are Saint Michael and Saint Gabriel. To the left is an inscription in Ge'ez.
The back is engraved with the Kwer'ata Re'esu, the striking of the head. Christ is shown wearing the crown of thorns with two tormentors who are depicted in profile.
- Production date
Height: 41.80 centimetres
Width: 24.30 centimetres
Depth: 2 centimetres
- Curator's comments
This type of hand cross is used specifically by the clergy during the Holy liturgy.
See file in Eth Doc 439 in AOA Archives on transfer of these objects from former Medieval & Later Dept.
- Not on display
- Good, some loss of gilding on the shaft.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Maqdala, an almost impenetrable mountain top fortress in northern Ethiopia, became the seat of power and a retreat for Emperor Tewodros II (1855-1868). The Emperor intended Maqdala to become his capital and treasury. He collected many manuscripts from churches throughout Ethiopia and brought them to Maqdala with the intention of creating a great library and seat of learning. His treasury included many fine examples of Ethiopian art including textiles, paintings and metal work.
In the 1860s relations between Tewodros and Britain became strained and relations deteriorated further when Tewodros imprisoned the British consul and several European missionaries. In 1867 a military expedition led by Sir Robert Napier was sent to free the British captives with a force made up of 12,000 men from both the British and Indian armies.
At dawn on Easter Monday April 13th 1868, Napier ordered an assault on Maqdala to destroy Tewodros’s stronghold. When his troops entered the fortress they found the Emperor already dead. Rather than surrender, Tewodros had taken his own life using a pistol which had been a gift from Queen Victoria. This last defiant act has immortalised Tewodros as a national hero for many Ethiopians.
Material taken from Maqdala was auctioned soon after on the Delanta plain. Richard Rivington Holmes, an assistant in the manuscripts department of The British Museum, had accompanied the expedition as an archaeologist. He acquired a number of objects for the British Museum, including around 300 manuscripts which are now housed in the British Library. In 1868 the Secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Henry Northcote, 1st Earl of Iddesleigh, donated to The British Museum two further collections of material from Maqdala.
Material from Maqdala can be found in public collections in North America and Europe as well as in private collections worldwide. When the Maqdala collections first entered the British Museum in 1868 they stimulated a worldwide interest in the archaeology, history and culture of Ethiopia which has continued to this day. For Tewodros’ library see Rita Pankhurst ‘The Library of Emperor Tewodros II…’ Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 36(1), 1973 pp 15-42.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number