Altar cross

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probably made in Jerusalem

Postcard of Altar cross.
© National Museums Scotland

Altar cross

This wooden altar cross, inlaid with bone and mother-of-pearl, was probably made in Jerusalem. It dates from the 18th century.

The hollow pyramid-shaped base is fitted with a door for relics. The front of the base has inlaid mother-of-pearl decoration including the arms of Jerusalem (five crosses) and the arms of the Franciscan Order (the arms and hands of Christ and St Francis of Assisi).

Devotional souvenirs like these from the Holy Land would have been made by Arab-Christian craftsmen working in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and elsewhere in the Holy Land. They could have been purchased outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and at other holy places. However, many crosses and rosaries were also exported to Europe by the Franciscans and others.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-000-042-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  A.1905.903
Date: 18th century
18th century AD
Material: Wood with bone and mother-of-pearl inlay. Inscription: INRI; [the arms of Jerusalem]
Dimensions: 33.00" H
What: Cross
Who: Noel Paton Collection
Where: Middle East, Palestine, Jerusalem
Description: Cross of wood, with a hollow pyramidal base with a door for relics, bone and mother-of-pearl inlay in rosettes and borders, an applied mother-of-pearl inscribed label, and the arms of Jerusalem: Pales
  • Evans, G. Souvenirs From Roman Times to the Present Day. Edinburgh: NMS Publishing Ltd, 1999, p 9. 
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