[ Ethiopian Cross ]

The Coptic Christians of the Ethiopian highlands have for centuries isolated themselves from the outside world in order to sustain their beliefs. From the Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches to the holy tablets which represent the Tables of the Law that, in Old Testament times, were believed to be conveyed to Ethiopia in the Ark of the Covenant; they testify to the power and spirit of the archaic Christian faith. The lives of the Ethiopians have always been inextricably bound to the Church. As many as 160 days of the year are treated as fast days. For over 1600 years Ethiopian Christians have worn silver crosses as a sign of their faith. Social status is indicated by the size and refinement of the cross. Individual designs identify a wearer with his or her home province. The oldest are of simple Greek or Latin design. Those with flared arms show the influence of Coptic crosses from Egypt. Others under Celtic influence developed trefoils or decorative projections. Complicated openwork designs or patterns of endless interwoven lines symbolizing eternity became popular. Additional hinges and crowns show the influence of 19th century European medals.