While in Ethiopia last week, I stopped into a silver store to check out trinkets, including antique Coptic crosses. The Ethiopian cross, if you haven’t seen one before, has a distinctive elongated shape and cross hatch pattern, so abstracted from the traditional European kind of cross that you can’t always tell immediately that that’s what they are.
In Addis, I learned that these shapes vary by region and era and that collecting examples from around the country and throughout its history are a popular hobby among people interested in the country—expat bingo if you will (just kidding, I am sure collecting crosses reflects a deep interest in Ethiopian history and culture). Anyway, it wasn’t the traditional cross that caught my eye, but some examples of crosses cut out of old Austrian coins from the Colonial era. It seems Ethiopians more interested in the Colonialist’s religion than his currency “upcycled” old Austrian silver coins into silver crosses. As you can see, the coin cross is shaped more like the Western shape we are used to. That’s because this upcycling was done by Protestants rather than members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Of course, I couldn’t resist picking one up as a souvenir, which as a non-believer and non-Christian may not be put to much use, I just had to have a 200-year old sample of upcycling!