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Thursday, 10 March 2011

Film on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church

I have just managed to upload a 24 minute documentary on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the ancient art of making crosses by the lost wax technique. I made the film in my spare time between 1971 and 1975. It's called "The Cross: Artform of Ethiopia".

The master 16mm print is on loan to the Horniman Museum in London. This digital copy is taken from a VHS tape made from the only surviving film print (the film laboratory lost the negative and all the sound tracks).

Christianity became the official religion of the kingdom of Axum in 333 AD. It was Constantine the Great who started to promote the use of the Cross as a symbol of the Christian faith when he was converted to Christianity in the year 312 AD. Ethiopians believe that part of the True Cross was brought to their country in the fourteenth century by Emperor David 1st.

The film contains images of a world that has come to an end. You will even see bullets transformed into crosses. Filmed during the reign of Haile Selassie, the processions and festivals take one right back to Biblical times. The rock churches of Lalibela are spectacular.

Francisco Alvarez was probably the first European to see the rock churches of Lalibela in 1520: "I weary of writing more about these buildings, because it seems to me that I shall not be believed if I write more".


"Jim Potts has produced a fascinating film on the tradition of cross-making in Ethiopia. The 24-minute documentary contains scenes which may never be seen again with the radical changes taking place in Ethiopian societry. Included are the lost-wax process; unique patterns and mystic symbols; festivals and processions of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church..."The Cross: Artform of Ethiopia" contains many forms of the cross unknown in the West...a valuable medium for other Orthodox Christians to understand their rich heritage of art and worship" (ACTION, April 1980, Newsletter of the Wold Association for Christian Communication).

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