Antique Souvenirs: Ethiopian Crosses

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Ethiopia stands out among other countries that practice Christianity for the incomparable prominence of the cross in the life of its people. Ethiopian crosses are adorned on almost everything from utensils to clothing, art, tattoos on their bodies and even on books.

With a variety of intricate patterns used to decorate cross-shaped objects of all kinds, Ethiopian crosses are possibly the most interesting crosses on earth. Each cross looks completely different from the other; they have distinctive ‘African’ appearance as opposed to the common Latin cross.

Designs and styles of crosses developed over the years were identified with a specific region of Ethiopia. Some of the most popular designs are the Axum cross, Lalibella cross, Gonder cross, and the Shewa cross.

Three Types of Ethiopian Crosses

  1. Procession crosses
A cleric in Ethiopia holding procession crosses

A cleric in Ethiopia holding procession crosses.

The procession crosses are mounted on a long staff and carried by priests during religious ceremonies. Many ancient processional crosses are made of copper and bronze and have round or square shapes with a small cross in the middle. The relief carved cross in a column of the monolithic church of Beta Maryam, in the city of Lalibela, is an example of a procession cross.

  1. Hand Crosses

Ethiopian hand cross.

Hand crosses are smaller than the processional crosses. These types of Ethiopian crosses are carried by priests, and they use them to bless the congregation.  Most of these crosses are very simple and they often incorporate a circle characterised by a variety of designs.

  1. Neck Crosses
An Ethiopian cross pendant

An Ethiopian cross pendant.

The neck crosses are the most common type of crosses in Ethiopia. These crosses are worn like pendants around the neck or dropping to the chest, and they are considered prominent signs of faith and sources of protection, often given to the wearers at the time of their baptism.

The next time you visit Ethiopia, make sure you buy one of these Ethiopian crosses as a souvenir to remind you of your trip. You can purchase these items in souvenir shops located around major cities like Addis Ababa.


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