The Lalibela Cross

Also known as Afro Ayigeba, the Lalibela Cross is a large ornate processional cross, elaborately adorned in lavish gold, and is considered an artefact of immense historical, cultural and religious significance.

The central cross spreads its golden arms side-wards, towards an ornate encircling band, slowly flaring as it reaches out. Like many Ethiopian crosses, the Lalibela cross is supported by a motif meant to portray Adam's arms, affectionately known as ‘Adams arms’.

Starting most of the way along the top of the outer band, smaller crosses protrude into the air, like minuscule men holding hands, connected in the middle by one slightly larger cross.

Any cross that resembles this style are now known as Lalibela crosses. 

At the moment, the cross is held within the Bet Medhane Alem ('House of the Redeemer of the World'), a 12th-century rock-hewn church in Lalibela, part of the network of 11 churches in the area, all built by King Laibela himself in the 12th century.

These churches, all built from one single rock, are home to an array of other artefacts and scrolls and have housed the cross for most of its life, except when used for ceremonial purposes and one brief two-year period in the late 1990s.

Lalibela Cross Ethiopia

The cross was stolen in March 1997 and was missing for over two years. An extensive manhunt spanning multiple continents ensued, and after multiple false leads and dead ends, the cross was found in a private collection, belonging to a businessman from Belgium in 1999.

It was reported that the collector had purchased the cross from an antique dealer in Addis Ababa for around $25,000, and after the collector's money was returned, it was agreed that no further legal action would be taken.

In 2001, the Lalibela Cross returned home, where it has remained to this day.

Lalibela Cross

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