Coptic Leather Crosses

coptic cross 1
One the handicrafts made by Coptic Hermits, Monks and Nuns, was the traditional Coptic leather cross. Such crosses were traditional worn by clergy and laity. Consecrated Deacons and Priests wore a leather cross, and Bishops, Metropolitans and Patriarchs were distinguished by wearing larger leather crosses.
coptic cross 2
In modern times, Coptic Priests have taken to wearing metal crosses of the Byzantine tradition, and Bishops, Metropolitans and Patriarchs have done likewise, or wear Eastern Orthodox Engolpion or Enkolpion, formerly called an Encolpion (Greek: ἐγκόλπιον, enkólpion, “on the chest”; plural: ἐγκόλπια, enkólpia).

In modern times, the leather traditionally used to make the cross has sometimes been replaced by plastic.
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“In order to gain the leather, an animal has to be slaughtered. The slaughter symbolizes the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. There are three circles at each of the four ends, symbolizing the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are thus 12 circles (4 x 3) altogether which are meant to be representative of the 12 apostles. The four circles at the centre stand for the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Coptic cross does not have a body. Not death is at its centre, but the good news of resurrection.”
http://www.dieter-philippi.de/en/ecclesiastical-fineries/pectoral-cross-enkolpion-panagia
coptic cross 4
See also http://copticegypt.weebly.com/leather-crosses.html

The use of leather by Hermits and Monks has a long history. Coptic Hermits and Monks, as also other Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Hermits and Monks, have traditionally worn a belt of leather.

A version of the leather cross worn traditionally by some Coptic Hermits and Monks is the eskeem (iskeem).
eskeem
“The ‘Eskeem’ is a Coptic word which means ‘shape’ it is a string of plaited leather with crosses in equal distances, it surrounds the chest and the back. Two big crosses are in it; one at the chest, and one at the back, then 12 more crosses. The hermits who has reached high levels of spirituality wear it, following these strict practices and rules:

1. To read the 150 Psalms daily.
2. To pray the Mid-night praise daily.
3. To do 500 metania daily.
4. To live the life of silence.
5. To continually read the Holy Bible and the lives and sayings of the saints.
6. Fast daily till sunset
7. To keep eat, drink, and sleep to a minimum so that he reaches mental and psychological serenity and purity.
The Rite of Wearing the Eskeem: It is like the Rite of ordaining monks to a great extent, but the prayers and crossings are done here on the leather plaited Eskeem. In one of the prayers, the Abbot prays:

“We ask and entreat to Your Goodness O Lover of mankind, make him worthy of this Eskeem, which is the sign of the Holy Cross of Your Only Son, and His life-giving death,
to live with Him in eternal life forever. Amen.”

Then he clothes the Eskeem on the monk saying:

“Put on the seal which is a token of the Kingdom of heaven, the holy Eskeem. Carry on your arms the sign of the glorified Cross. Follow our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ, the True God, to inherit the light of eternal life through the power of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

After finishing the prayers and reading the commandments, the monk participates in the Holy Liturgy and partakes of the Holy Communion”

http://www.stshenoudamonastery.org.au/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/pimonakhos-vol-3-issue-10-a4.pdf

“The Great Schema, which is made of a leather cord twisted in design and has 5 to 7 small crosses along its length and worn crosswise around the neck, flowing down cross wise front and back, it is usually granted to bishops either upon their episcopal consecration or shortly afterwards and it is usually granted when a monk has reached a high degree of asceticism or has been living as a hermit and also to the monks, hieromonks and abbots who have been in the monastic life for over 30 years and have been living in an exemplary monastic life.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrees_of_Eastern_Orthodox_monasticism
eskeem new pope
The current Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Tawadros II, was invested with the eskeem prior to his enthronement as Patriarch: http://www.copticworld.org/articles/1418/ and https://sites.google.com/site/copticorthodoxjerusalem/what-s-happening/popetawadrosiireceivestheholyeskeem

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