By Eileen Moyer
University of Amsterdam (formerly University of Iowa)

Democratic Republic of the CongoKongo peoples


Wood, brass

H. 28.5 cm (11 1/4")

Private Collection of the Bareiss Family

Christian influenced Kongo crosses are common in museum collections, for there have been practicing Christians in the Kongo Kingdom since 1491, a year before Columbus landed in the Americas. It is believed, however, that the "four moments of the sun" cross and its accompanying philosophy existed prior to Portuguese influences. Kongo crosses normally incorporate a circle, wheel, or spiral which indicates the continuous circularity of the cosmos, notions which are independent of the Christian cruciform (Thompson 1981). The horizontal line of the cross serves as the dividing line between the world of the living and the spiritual realm. All things are reflected between the two worlds. This line (Kalunga) is also the name of God and is often associated with water. The ancestors live beneath the water, and many who undergo spiritual transformation acknowledge a visit to this ancestral world beneath the river sea.  Although Christianity has become part of the Kongo cosmologies, it has not replaced the philosophy of the ancestor.