Inventory no.: 1206

Sri Lankan (Ceylon) Silver Crucifix


Silver Crucifix

Kandy, Sri Lanka

19th century

height: 11.2cm, width: 6cm, weight: 54g

This hollow silver crucifix is chased on the front and each side with scrolling floral and foliage motifs that are typical of nineteenth century Kandian silverwork. (Tthe reverse is of plain sheet silver.) The crucifix is surmounted by a movable chased silver loop to allow it to be suspended by a chain. The crucifix is relatively large – perhaps too large to have been worn practically. It might have been made to adorn a statue in one of Sri Lanka’s many Christian churches. As such it is a fascinating cross-cultural relic from Sri Lanka’s interaction with Portuguese, Dutch and British traders and colonisers.

Certainly, a crucifix executed in what is overtly Sri Lankan silverwork more commonly seen on betel boxes and other more obviously indigenous paraphernalia is highly unusual: this is the first time that we have encountered such an item.

The item is in excellent condition with no splits, dents of repairs.

Christianity has a long history in Sri Lanka. A Portuguese fleet commanded by Lourenco de Almeida, having been driven by a storm to the shores of Sri Lanka, landed in Colombo in 1505. With permission of the king of Kotte, Dharma Parakramabahu IX, the King of Kotte, gave Alimeida permission to establish a trade station and a small chapel in Colombo. The chapel was dedicated to St Lawrence. Franciscan Friar Vicente, the chaplain of the fleet, celebrated Mass. Over the next few centuries, Portuguese, Dutch, and Irish missionaries spread the religion in Sri Lanka, most notably in the western and north-western coast.


UK art market

Inventory no.: 1206