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Crown

  • Place of origin:

    Ethiopia (made)

  • Date:

    1740 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gold alloyed with silver and copper with filigree work, glass beads, pigment and gilded copper

  • Museum number:

    M.27-2005

  • Gallery location:

    Silver, Room 66, The Whiteley Galleries, case 1

This crown was probably given to the Church of Our Lady of Qwesqwam, near Gondar, as a gift from King Iyyasu II and his mother Empress Mentewwab. Iyyasu II ruled from 1730 to 1755. Around the two lower tiers are images of the twelve Apostles, Christ's closest followers. On the top section are the four Evangelists - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - who wrote the Gospels. The crown was taken by British troops at the siege of Maqdala (Magdala) in 1868. It was deposited at the South Kensington Museum (later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum) by H.M. Treasury in 1872. The Ethiopian church was part of the Coptic church until 1959, when it became fully independent.

Physical description

The crown is constructed of an inner raised and domed cylinder surrounded by three pierced tiers. The latter are supported so that they stand away from the inner cylinder. It is thought that originally fabric would have covered the cylindrical portion of the inner body. The remains of the fabric are now crumpled behind the tiers. The fabric behind the top tier is green, while that behind the lower tiers is of a darker green. All are very faded. The domed portion of the crown is decorated with the four apostles and other figures, embossed and chased. Attached to it are eight filigree bead casings, with some beads remaining. The decoration of the tiers appears to have been stamped or chisel-cut from sheet metal.

Place of Origin

Ethiopia (made)

Date

1740 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Gold alloyed with silver and copper with filigree work, glass beads, pigment and gilded copper

Dimensions

Height: 21.5 cm, Diameter: 23.5 cm

Historical context note

The Eastern Churches
The history of the church around and beyond the eastern Mediterranean is complex. The earliest eastern churches were established in Antioch, Alexandria and other cities in the 1st century. They were independent communities and theological controversy sharpened their differences.

In 330 Constantinople (now Istanbul) became the capital of the Roman empire. Successive bishops of Constantinople, later given the title of patriarch, gradually won authority over other eastern churches, despite the opposition of the pope. Churches that accepted the jurisdiction of the patriarch became known as Orthodox, but others, including those of Armenia and Ethiopia, developed along separate lines. Diversity of practice and doctrine in the eastern churches is reflected in the different kinds of regalia and sacred silver. Yet some forms such as the chalice are common to all, indicating a shared core of beliefs.

Descriptive line

Crown, gold and gilded copper with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, probably 1740

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Mercier, Jacques, The Gold Crown of Magdala. Apollo, December 2006, Vol. 164, p46-53

Labels and date

Crown
ክሊል

Probably made in Gondar, Ethiopia, around 1740

This is one of the most prized treasures taken from Maqdala. The 18-carat, three-tiered crown is decorated with delicate filigree work and embossed images of the Apostles and Evangelists. Before they were seized by the British, the crown and the nearby chalice were taken by Tewodros from the Church of Our Lady of Qwesqwam (የእመቤታችን ኩውስቋም ቤተክርሲቲያን), near Gondar. He took these and many other objects for his treasury at Maqdala.

Gold alloyed with silver and copper with filigree work, glass beads, pigment and gilded copper

Deposited at the South Kensington Museum by H.M. Treasury in 1872

Museum no. M.27-2005 [5/04/2018]
Ethiopian Crown

This crown was probably given to an Ethiopian church at the death of an emperor, by his family, to ensure continuing prayers for his soul. Around the two lower tiers are images of the twelve Apostles, Christ's closest followers. On the top section are the four Evangelists - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - who wrote the Gospels.

The crown was taken by British troops at the siege of Magdala (Mek'dala) in 1868. It was deposited at the South Kensington Museum (later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum) by H.M. Treasury in 1872.

The Ethiopian church was part of the Coptic church until 1959, when it became fully independent.

Ethiopia, 1600-1800
Gold and copper gilt, with glass beads and
pigment
Loan: T.10 [now M.27-2005] [22/11/2005]

Materials

Gold; Silver; Copper

Techniques

Raised; Embossing; Chased; Filigree

Categories

Religion; Metalwork; Christianity; Africa

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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