Name of Object:

A bronze Greek cross

Location:

Madaba, Jordan

Holding Museum:

Madaba Archaeological Museum

Date:

Hegira, first third of the 2nd century / AD first half of the 8th century

Type of object:

Cross, Greek, metalwork

Museum Inventory Number:

M. 4873

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Cast bronze.

Dimensions:

Height 8 cm, width 6 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Umayyad

Provenance:

Unknown.

Description:

The Christian cross is a familiar religious symbol. Its significance lies in the belief that the governor of Judea executed Jesus Christ on a large wooden cross. The cross was the first of the instruments of the passion that came to be venerated in the form of a relic.

This bronze cross is of Greek form, decorated with concentric incised circles on each arm and on both faces of the cross. Two of three iron nails are still preserved on the vertical arm while the third, at the bottom, is missing.

It seems that this cross was nailed to a wooden box as a reliquary in the Church of St Stephen at Umm al-Rasas. The upper part of the vertical arm is broken into two pieces and has been mended recently.

The importance of this cross is linked to its discovery at the Church of St Stephen, which was paved with mosaic floors in AH 138 / AD 756, according to the dedicatory inscriptions on either side of the altar. The inscription is significant because it indicates that there was an active Christian community present at Umm al-Rasas six years after the end of the Umayyad period and after more than a century of Islamic rule in the region.

View Short Description

How date and origin were established:

The cross was dated by a dedicatory inscription discovered at the Church of St Stephen.

How Object was obtained:

The cross was acquired by the Museum as a result of an archaeological excavation carried out at Umm al-Rasas by the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, on-going since 1986.

How provenance was established:

The cross was discovered at Umm al-Rasas during archaeological excavations but where it was originally manufactured is uncertain.

Selected bibliography:

Desreumaux, A., et Humbert, J. B., Khirbet es-Samara. Contribution à l'épigraphie syro-palestinienne, Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan XXV, 1981, p.50, type Ec, Pl. XVI.

Piccirillo, M., and Alliata, E., Umm al-Rasas Mayfa'ah I: Gli scavi del complesso ecclesiastico di Santo Stefano, Jerusalem, 1993.

Citation of this web page:

Aida Naghawy "A bronze Greek cross" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;ISL;jo;Mus01_A;38;en&id=religious_life

Prepared by: Aida NaghawyAida Naghawy

Aida Naghawy is an archaeologist and the Director of Jordan Archaeological Museum. She studied archaeology at the University of Jordan where she gained her MA. She was affiliated to the Jordanian Department of Antiquities from 1974 as a curator of Jordan Archaeological Museum. In 1981 she became inspector of Jerash antiquities and co-ordinator of the Jerash International Rehabilitation project. She was also head of the archaeological awareness section at the Department of Antiquities. Aida is the author of numerous publications on Islamic coins. She has carried out excavation work in Jerash and is the founder of Jerash Archaeological Museum and the Islamic Museum of the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: JO 79