The openwork form of the present cross was designed to create a dramatic silhouette against the light of the African sky. Originally the cross, like a similar 15th century cross now in the Walters Art Gallery Baltimore, surmounted a long pole and was adorned with long strips of colourful fabric. These crosses were, and continue to be, integral to Ethiopian Christian rituals.
Ethiopia was the first nation in Africa to adopt Christianity (circa 324 CE) due to both the conversion of the ruler Ezana to the faith and the country's location off an estuary of the Nile, which enabled a direct conduit to the Christian countries in the Mediterranean. By the 15th century Christian art in Ethiopia was flourishing, combining Christian iconography with an expressive use of pattern and form exemplified by the present bronze.
This cross was formerly in the collection of the noted American pioneer of molecular biology, Edward Mursky (1900-1974). Mursky was an avid collector of art and archaeology. The majority of his collection is now held at the Rockefeller University, New York.
D. E. Horowitz (ed.), Ethiopian Art: the Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, 2001) pp. 10, 12, 80-1