At Ferbers we like to use jewelry as a vehicle to explore far-off places and interesting cultures. One of our favorite collections is our Ethiopian Coptic Crosses. In the West we may not be very familiar with the Coptic Christians, but their history is rich and their influence in Africa is considerable. Tradition tells us that the Apostle Mark founded the Coptic Church in the 1st Century A.D. in Egypt. The Church of Alexandria, considered the "mother" of all of the traditional African churches, was one of the four original Apostolic Sees, along with Rome, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The Church of Alexadria's influence in Egypt continued to grow, and by the 3rd century the majority of Egypt's population considered itself Christian. It wasn't until the 4th century A.D. that Christianity found its way to Ethiopia. The Coptic Christian philosopher Meropius was travelling to India when his ship sank off the shores of Ethiopia. Meropius died, but two of his attendants, Frumentius and Aedesius, survived the accident and were taken to the royal palace of King Ella Amida. Frumentius and Aedesius began spreading the gospel in Ethiopia, and eventually contacted the Coptic Church of Alexandria about sending missionaries to the country. Christianity took hold, and to this day the majority of Ethiopians are Christian. The link between Ethiopia's Christians and the Coptic Church remained strong well into the 20th century, when the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church officially broke with the Coptic Orthodox Church in 1959.

Religious Art of Ethiopia

Coptic Crosses

If you are looking for an excellent resource to learn about the art of Africa, we highly recommend the book Africa Adorned by Angela Fisher. In it, she talks extensively about the metalwork of Ethiopia, especially the Coptic Crosses like those found on our site. 

"For over 1600 years Christian Ethiopians have worn neck crosses as a proud confession of their faith. An Amhara woman of Lalibela wears a cross typical of that region, hanging on a blue cotton cord called a mateb which she recieved at baptism." - p. 293 Africa Adorned by Angela Fisher.

Our selection of antique silver crosses were handmade by craftsmen in Ethiopia over 150 years ago. Each community adopted their own design and it is still possible to tell a persons place of origin by the style of cross she wears. Each one is a one-of-a-kind piece of history.

Church of St. George in Lalibela

It is impossible to talk about religious art in Ethiopia without mentioning the Church of St. George in Lalibela, for this rock-hewn wonder of architecture is a true work of art. Referred to by many as the "Eighth Wonder of the World", the Chuch of St. George is one of 13 churches built in the 13th century by devout Coptic Christians. What is remarkable about this cluster of churches is that they were not built from the ground up, they were carved from the top down. Just by digging with primitive tools early Copts chiseled out everything from the surrounding rock they didn’t want until what was left was a perfectly formed church that is almost 100 feet tall. 

“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” -Michelangelo