About the Image:

Ethiopian handheld crosses, often referred to as "processional crosses," have a rich history and are distinct in their design and cultural significance.

Let's delve deeper:

Design and Material:

  • The intricate lattice-like design is characteristic of Ethiopian crosses. Each design pattern, though sharing similarities, is unique to the region or even the individual craftsman who made it.
  • The cross appears to be made of brass, which is a common material for these artifacts. The use of metals like brass or silver signifies the preciousness of the object in religious and cultural contexts.
  • The elongated shaft and the intricate patterns on the handle demonstrate the attention to detail by the craftsman, making it not only a religious tool but also a work of art.


  • The circular form in the center of the cross often symbolizes eternity and God's unending love, as a circle has no beginning and no end.
  • The multiple arms and intricate designs might represent the multiplicity and intricacy of the Christian faith and teachings.
  • Ethiopian Christianity, with its ancient roots, emphasizes the Old Testament and has many unique liturgical practices, which are often reflected in the design and use of their crosses.


  • Such crosses were often used in religious processions, hence the term "processional crosses." They would be held aloft by priests during ceremonies and festivals.
  • They also serve as symbols of the Ethiopian Christian faith and are a focal point during religious ceremonies, reminding the faithful of Christ's sacrifice and the central tenets of their belief.

Cultural and Historical Context:

  • Christianity has been practiced in Ethiopia since the early 4th century, making it one of the oldest Christian nations in the world.
  • These crosses, spanning from the 18th to the 20th century, would have witnessed significant transitions in Ethiopian history, from the eras of its ancient kingdoms to more modern challenges.

The intricate designs and the craftsmanship evident in these handheld crosses not only represent the deep-rooted faith of the Ethiopian Christian community but also the country's rich artistic heritage. They serve as a testament to Ethiopia's unique position in the history of Christianity and its vibrant cultural expressions.

Please give proper attribution.
Image By Mary Harrsch - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=95579471
photo by Mary Harrsch

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