The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Ethiopian Crosses at Hampton Court and at Croydon

Author - Christopher Collier-Wright

The Hampton Court Cross.
Photo - © Christopher Collier-Wright; photographed with gracious permission of H M The Queen

The Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace holds a special attraction for Ethiopian visitors, for it contains a splendid Ethiopian processional cross. Built in about 1514 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and subsequently enlarged for Henry VIII, the chapel was redesigned by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17th century and is famous for its Tudor pendant-vaulted ceiling.

The Ethiopian cross was presented to the chapel in 1968 by Father Nessibu, who was at that time a chaplain to the Imperial family in Addis Ababa. Father Nessibu had previously studied at St George's Anglican theological college in Jerusalem, where the principal was Canon Felix Boyse, later appointed as chaplain at Hampton Court.

The Chapel Royal may be visited as part of a tour of the Palace. The public are also welcome to attend Sunday services, which are graced by a fine choir.

The Croydon Cross.
Photo - © Christopher Collier-Wright

Felix Boyse recalls that as a boy in the 1920s he was much struck by the beauty of the Ethiopian processional cross at Croydon Parish Church. This cross is still in regular use at the church and it incorporates an etching of the Madonna and Child, Geez inscriptions (one of which reads "Egziabher" - God) and avian embellishment. The birds represent messengers of peace and call to mind the dove which returned to Noah's Ark with "an olive leaf pluckt off."

Unfortunately, the church does not hold any records about when and how the cross was brought to England. It is possible that it had previously been housed in the former palace of the Archbishops of Canterbury at Croydon, but it does not appear to be of great antiquity.

I would like to thank the following for their help in the preparation of this feature:
Rev. Felix Boyse, LVO
Rev. Denis Mulliner, Chaplain of Her Majesty's Chapel Royal and
Martin Taylor, Clerk of the Chapel, Hampton Court Palace
Denise Mead, Parish Administrator, Croydon Parish Church
Ato Tesfaye Yetayeh, First Secretary, Ethiopian Embassy, London

First Published in News File Spring 2008

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