The San Damiano Cross
The San Damiano Cross is the cross that Giovanni de Pietro di Bernardone, who was later to become known as St. Francis of Assisi, was praying before when he received the commission from the Lord to ‘rebuild the Church’.
As a young man, Francis was passing a small, rundown church outside the gates of Assisi, known as San Damiano. As he passed the church, he heard an internal voice from his spirit telling him to go in and pray. As he neared the alter, he knelt before a large cross in prayer. While gazing at the cross, Francis heard the words, “Francis, go repair my house which as you see is falling into ruin.” And thus, Francis’ began his journey. For over eight centuries the San Damiano cross has symbolized the mission for Franciscans to bring renewal to the Church. The San Damiano Cross is referred to as an iconic cross because it depicts images of persons who played a historically part in the in the meaning of the cross. In ages where education was severely limited, iconic crosses were frequently used to teach people the meaning a liturgical event in order to educate and strengthen their faith.
The original cross is currently located in the Basilica of Santa Chiara (St. Clare) in Assisi, Italy.