Ethiopian Silver Neck Crosses
The four types of crosses found in Ethiopia include the large (4 feet or more) crosses fixed to the top of churches, processional crosses (roughly 8 inches to around 2 feet), hand crosses carried by all priests (usually 6 to 10 inches) and neck crosses (1 inch to 4 or 5 inches.) (Examples of processional and hand crosses are on the Decorative Items page of this Web Site.)
Neck crosses have been part of Ethiopian culture and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church for hundreds of years and were initially made from wood, bone, leather, carved stones or other local material. Beginning in the 19th century silver in the form of silver coins became more prevalent in rural Ethiopia and soon village artisans began to fashion neck crosses from silver. In some cases crosses were simply cut from a large coin such as the very popular Maria Theresa Thaler (dollar) or the Emperor Menelik Dollar but in most cases the silver coins were melted down and a neck cross was cast by the lost wax method. Since each lost wax casting is unique, over the years many, many different designs and styles of crosses developed and often these designs were identified with a specific region of Ethiopia. Although the various styles of crosses are now made in many different regions, certain styles are still identified with certain regions. Some of the most popular designs are the Axum cross, Lalibella cross, Gonder cross, and the Shewa cross.
Please see the separate note on Ethiopian Silver.
“ What is available for purchase is uniformly exquisite, whether new … or old crucific pendants made from melted-down Maria Theresa Thalers….” - Gourmet Traveler