- Museum number
Cross; cast in bronze and gilded. An upper patée cross is joined to a square shaped base with a shaft. The front upper part is engraved with figurative images and flowers; the back is engraved with figurative images, flowers, and a small Ge'ez inscription. Outer edges have four finial crosses, a further three are missing. A central raised bar runs from the centre of the cross, along the shaft, to the top of the base. Front base is engraved with figurative images and a Ge'ez inscription; back base engraved with figurative images; outer edges have four finial crosses, a further one is missing.
- 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.
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.
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, some loss of gilding on the shaft.
- Associated events
Associated Event: Abyssinian Campaign 1867-1868
Associated Event: Battle of Maqdala 13 April 1868
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Purchased at the Army sale of loot from Maqdala on the Delanta Plain, 20-21 April 1868. Described as ‘1 cross used in the consecration of the Eucharist. 47 Rupees'. See '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