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Significance of the San Damiano Cross

The Christ of San Damiano is a twelfth century icon, painted by Serbian monks and transported to the Umbria district of Italy. The name of the painter is unknown. It is called, "The Christ of San Damiano," because for ages it was hung in the little church of Assisi named San Damiano. In the early conversion days of Francis, he prayed before this image when he heard a voice coming from the crucifix: "Francis, go, repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin" (2 Cel 10). Francis immediately got up and literally began to repair the little chapel. Later, he understood that it was the bigger Church of Jesus that he had to repair. Francis and his brothers rebuilt the Church by means of a totally new proclamation of the Gospel.

On the cross you can see that the figure of Christ is surrounded by events and people significant to his life. The purpose of an icon cross was to teach the meaning of the event depicted and strengthen the faith of the people who gaze upon it.

We are called to see in the cross the paschal mystery of Jesus. We see the human and divine natures of Jesus coming together in the events and people painted on the cross. As followers of Christ, we are called into the paschal mystery every day. And as Franciscans, we live following in the footprints of Jesus.

The prayer Before the Cross, is cited as the prayer that Francis prayed before the icon.

Prayer of St. Francis before the Cross of San Damiano

Most High, Glorious God,
Bring light to the darkness of my heart.
Give me right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity.
Give me insight and wisdom, So I can always observe, your holy
And true will. Amen

For Reflection

Who are the significant people in your life story? How have they become significant?
What are some significant events that took place in your life? How do you feel your faith played a role in these events?

How you are currently living your life? Name the ways you are following in the footprints of Christ.

Sources used for the San Damiano Cross: "The San Damiano Cross: An Explanation," Michael Scanlan, TOR., 1983, Franciscan University of Stuebenville. "The Icon of the Christ of San Damiano," Marc Picard, OFM, Cap., 2000. Casa Editrice Francescana, Italy.

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