In just one short day, 450 participants will be at the Vatican for the Synod on Synodality. As preparations are made, no detail is too small.

Assisi is widely known as home to the Basilica of Saint Clare and the San Damiano Crucifix.

In celebration of this year’s Synod, the cross moved to Saint Peter’s Square.

“It will be installed in the center of the square with a Bible on one side and an icon of the Virgin Mary 'Maria Salus populi romani', (the original of which is in Santa Maria Maggiore) on the other. Olive trees will also be placed behind the crucifix.”

What is the San Damiano Cross?

According to the Franciscan Mission Service, “The San Damiano Cross is the large Romanesque rood cross that hung in the abandoned chapel near Assisi. While still in his early 20s and seeking his place in the world, Saint Francis of Assisi was praying before this cross when he heard the voice of God commanding him to 'rebuild my church.'”

Due to this life-changing event for Saint Francis, the Franciscans carry on this tradition by using San Damiano as a symbol of their vocation.

What is the symbolism of the cross?

According to Father Corrigan, the figures surrounding Jesus on the cross are intricate and purposeful.

The top of the cross includes a triumphant, risen Jesus, surrounded by 10 angels.

The Saint Damiano Cross also includes figures of five witnesses of the crucifixion: The Blessed Mother, St. John, St. Mary Magdalene, Mary, Mother of James; and the officer who in Matthew’s Gospel account asks Christ to heal his son.

In addition, six angels are present at the Lord’s pierced palms.

Here's a simple breakdown of the San Damiano Cross:

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Caroline Perkins, ChurchPOP

1. God the Father’s Right Hand

God the Father’s two extended fingers represent the power of His right hand to raise His Son from the dead.

2. Welcoming Jesus into Heaven

With 10 angels surrounding him, Jesus climbs out of his tomb in His resurrected glory. The Angels welcome him into Heaven.

3. Jesus Christ Crucified

The Crucified Christ is larger than all images on the cross, depicted with both wounds and strength. This represents Christ as God and the One we worship.

4. Angels Below Jesus’ Arms

The three angels on each side of Jesus' arms are filled with amazement at Christ’s work for salvation.

5. Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Saint John

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and Saint John stand underneath the cross as Christ entrusts his mother to John.

6. Mary Magdelene, Mary, the Mother of James, and Roman Centurion

Mary Magdelene, Mary, the mother of James, and the Roman Centurian each stand beside Jesus as they love, admire, and recognize him as the Son of God.

7. The Soldier with the Lance

The small soldier standing below the cross is Saint Longinus, the soldier who pierced Jesus' side with the lance.

8. Pharisee

A pharisee mocks Jesus at the foot of the cross.

9. The Rooster

A rooster stands near Christ’s left calf muscle. This represents Peter’s betrayal of Jesus. It also announces the new dawn of Jesus’ resurrection.

10. Saints

The original artist depicted several saints at the bottom of the cross. While unrecognizable, some sources say they are the patrons of Umbria: Saint John, Saint Michael, Saint Rufino, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Peter, and Saint Paul.

You can find a variety of beautiful San Damiano crosses in the EWTN Religious Catalogue.

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