San Damiano Cross

Although the artist is unknown, this Byzantine-style icon cross is well-known as the one beneath which St. Francis was praying when he heard Christ commission him to "Rebuild My Church". More of an icon than a cross, it artistically features images of people who bring special meaning to the cross itself. The five major witnesses to Christ’s crucifixion are featured, among others: Mother Mary, St. John the Beloved, Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and the Centurion. Also shown are minor witnesses -- angels, patron saints, apostles. At top is an image of the resurrected Jesus surrounded by angels. The original San Damiano cross hangs in the Santa Chiara (St. Claire) Church in Assisi, Italy. After this commission St. Francis went on to establish the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans) who take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.