We have four processional crosses.
The one used most often in processions at church festivals and special services was given by Rodman Wanamaker of the USA, and first used on Christmas Eve 1922. This is made from ivory and silver gilt, and adorned with a series of panels of beaten gold and sapphires. On one side, the panels show the Crucifixion with representations of the Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection and Ascension on the arms of the cross. On the other side is Our Lord in Glory, with groups of apostles on the cross arms. Smaller panels show emblems of the Evangelists and figures of angels.
The cross was re-gilded and new ivory inlaid in 1964, with 72 diamonds added. It was designed by Walter Stoye and made by the firm of Barkentin & Krall. The staff is made from silver gilt, and Latin inscriptions on it record the gift by Wanamaker and the Biblical quote, ‘Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more’. This ‘Cross of Westminster’ is also used in Westminster Hall at the head of the coffin when monarchs and others lie in state there.
A silver gilt cross of Abyssinian workmanship was presented, together with its ebony staff, by Ras Makunan, envoy of the King of Abyssinia, in London at the time of the sudden illness of Edward VII, just before his coronation in 1902. A net of wirework, soldered and gilt with inscriptions in Amharic, overlays the back of the cross. On the staff, there’s a Latin inscription, which can be translated as, ‘Given by Ras Makunan to greet King Edward 8 Kalends of July 1902’ (25th July). The cross stood at the head of the grave at the burial of the Unknown Warrior in 1920.
A cross of Abyssinian ivory was made from a tusk presented in 1924 by Haile Selassie, later Emperor of Ethiopia. Studded with silver gilt pins and decorated with shields, it shows the cross keys of St Peter with the ring of St Edward the Confessor and arms of the Collegiate Church. Mrs EB Wright paid for the making of the cross, which was dedicated in 1940, designed by Omar Ramsden, and completed after his death by Laurence Turner. It was carried in front of the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, at her funeral.
A cross of English wood, painted red with gilt decorations of a sun and star, is used during Lent. It was a gift from the Brotherhood of St Edward (made up of former Abbey choristers) in 1933.
The biggest challenge we face is maintaining such a large physical collection of material within a historic building – believe it or not, there’s just not enough space for it all.