Description Hand-held crosses, called hand or benediction crosses, are carried by Ethiopian priests and offered to the faithful to be kissed during church services. Made out of metal or wood, the crosses are also used by priests to bless holy water and to perform exorcisms. Beginning in the 16th century, hand crosses also appear as signs of victory in icons and manuscripts, where they are held by saints, archangels, and even the resurrected Christ. This object has a conventional design, but the cross in the center appears in silhouette. As a result, during benedictions this opening could be used to project a cruciform shadow onto the object or person receiving the blessing. The rectangular base may be interpreted as a reference to the tabot, or carved altar box, venerated by Ethiopian Christians.
- Angels of Light: Ethiopian Art from the Walters Art Museum. Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton; Museum of Biblical Art, New York. 2006-2007.
Provenance Anonymous dealer, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Richard Hubbard Howland, 1963, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1998, by gift.
Credit Gift of Richard Hubbard Howland, 1998
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