Crown

1740 (made)
Crown thumbnail 1
Crown thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 83, The Whiteley Galleries
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gold alloyed with silver and copper with filigree work, glass beads, pigment and gilded copper
Brief Description
Crown, gold and gilded copper with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, probably 1740
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.
Dimensions
  • Height: 21.5cm
  • Diameter: 23.5cm
Style
Gallery Label
  • Maqdala 1868 display, 5 April 2018 - 30 June 2019 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 I look at this beautiful crown and remember a telling episode that I came across in the British National Archives. In 1924 treasury officials were discussing what gift to present to Ras Tafari (Haile Selassie I) on the occasion of his official visit. They described the crowns taken from Maqdala as ‘rather barbaric headgear’. - Dr Robbie Shilliam, Professor in International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London, and member of the Rastafari faith(5/04/2018 - 30 June 2019)
  • 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)
Historical context
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.
Subjects depicted
Association
Summary
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.
Bibliographic Reference
Mercier, Jacques, The Gold Crown of Magdala. Apollo, December 2006, Vol. 164, p46-53
Other Number
LOAN:TREASURY.10 - Previous loan number
Collection
Accession Number
M.27-2005

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record createdJanuary 7, 2005
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