The Lalibela Cross

One of the reasons why I decided to go to Ethiopia, was because I watched a television programme by Dan Cruickshank called 'Around the world in 80 Treasures'. In this program, Dan goes around the world looking for some of the most sacred of items which are not so commonly known to exist.

For instance, he goes to Ethiopia to search out the Ark of the Covenant, which turns out to be held, as many Ethiopians believe, in a small hut with an iron fence around it, and looked after by one guard.

In the TV program he also goes to Lalibela to see the Lalibela cross, a 7kg gold cross which dates back to the 12th century. It is an Ethiopian heir loom of significant importance.

I went to Lalibela for Meskel, a festival which happens once a year, known as the festival of 'finding the true cross'. Ethiopians are orthodox Christians and Lalibela is their own Jerusalem.

So I thought I'd show you a photograph of the Lalibela cross, held by the Deacon of the church of Bet Medhane Alem.

It was a real privilege to be allowed to photograph the cross before the ceremonies of Maskal - it is perhaps the first and only time in my travels that I've ever been given such privileged access to something of such significance to a nation.