Item RNT-ob-0022 - Ethiopian Handheld Coptic Cross

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Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Ethiopian Handheld Coptic Cross

General material designation

  • Object

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Statement of scale (cartographic)

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • ca. [1940-1960] (Creation)

Physical description area

Physical description

metal cross; 28.7cm x 13.3cm

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Custodial history

Robert N. Thompson acquired these Coptic Crosses from Ethiopia and later donated them. It is understood that Thompson served in Ethiopia between approximately 1945 and 1960, first as a commanding officer in the Ethiopian Air Force and then as a high school headmaster, Superintendent of Schools, Director of Education, and an Advisor in Foreign Affairs, although it is unclear when and how the Coptic Crosses came into his possession.

Scope and content

Object is an Ethiopian handheld Coptic Crosse made of brass with engraved x marks, half circles and dotted lines accentuating the cut out areas of the cross.

Notes area

Physical condition

Object is tarnished and worn.

Immediate source of acquisition

Robert N. Thompson


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Preferred citation Trinity Western University Archives and Special Collections, Robert N. Thompson fonds, RNT-ob-0022.

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General note

The cross is universally the most important symbol of Christianity, but Ethiopia stands out among other Christian regions for the inexhaustible variety and intricacy of the patterns used to decorate their crosses. They crown not only churches but also private houses, and in Ethiopian tradition the shape of the cross appears frequently even in everyday contexts. The Coptic Cross is designed as a sacred matrix whose intricacies are meant to encompass the life of the world. Hand-held crosses, such as the ones Robert N. Thompson acquired, usually belonged to clerics and monks for use in religious services, and were therefore handled typically only by men.

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Nov. 2022, MN

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Script of description


Source used to explain the significance of Coptic Crosses:
Evangelatou, Maria, "The Symbolic Language of Ethiopian Crosses: Visualizing History, Identity and Salvation Through Form and Ritual." University of California Santa Cruz (2013):

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Physical storage

  • Box: B 47 S 2 Box 7