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St. Francis of Assisi Cross

Here's a beautiful cross, with an even more beautiful message attached to it.

It's a historical cross, dating back not only to the Crucifixion of Jesus, but way back even further than that; really way back, to about the time of Adam.

But its use is not confined to history. It is as relevant today as it has always been, and on this page we're including a little challenge for you to write the next chapter of the story of this cross.



St. Francis of Assisi Cross

St. Francis of Assisi Cross
Front
(Click to enlarge)

St. Francis of Assisi Cross
Reverse
(Click to enlarge)

This is basically a Tau; a favourite cross shape for St. Francis (c.1181-1226). These photos were kindly sent to us by its owner, Ellie Fontaine Quinn.

If you click the photo on the left, you will clearly see at the top a sun and a moon, between which is the face of God, radiating a brilliant light.1

There are also stars and beneath them is a dove, a lamb, flames, water, a fish, and at the bottom are grapes, a sunflower and an apple. The entire piece shows the glorification of the Creator, His creations, life and death.

Interpretations

There are several:

  • First and foremost, this cross tells of the glory of God and His wonderful creations
  • Secondly, we see symbols is of the Holy Trinity:
    • At the very top, in the centre, is the face emitting rays of light being a reference to God the Creator
    • a descending dove representing the Holy Spirit
    • and a sacrificial lamb and fish representing Jesus Christ
  • And thirdly, we see signs of the Pentecost in the flames;
    1. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
    2. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting
    3. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them
    4. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

    (Acts 2:1-4)

Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi by Jusepe de Ribera
(Click to enlarge)

The strongest interpretation, however, is of God and His creations. On the reverse we read: Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature (Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures), which is a line from Canticum Fratris Solis (the Canticle of the Sun) written by St. Francis of Assisi in 1224.

The poem is also known as the Laudes Creaturarum (the Canticle of Creatures or Praise of the Creatures).

Laudes Creaturarum

The items on the face of the cross appear in the psalm:

Altissimu, onnipotente bon Signore,
Tue so le laude, la gloria e l'honore et onne benedictione.
Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
Ad Te solo, Altissimo, se konfano,
et nullu homo ène dignu te mentouare.
To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature,
spetialmente messor lo frate Sole,
lo qual è iorno, et allumini noi per lui.
Et ellu è bellu e radiante cum grande splendore:
de Te, Altissimo, porta significatione.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora Luna e le stelle:
in celu l'ài formate clarite et pretiose et belle.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate Uento
et per aere et nubilo et sereno et onne tempo,
per lo quale, a le Tue creature dài sustentamento.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which you give your creatures sustenance.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sor'Acqua,
la quale è multo utile et humile et pretiosa et casta.
Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate Focu,
per lo quale ennallumini la nocte:
ed ello è bello et iucundo et robustoso et forte.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra matre Terra,
la quale ne sustenta et gouerna,
et produce diuersi fructi con coloriti fior et herba.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per quelli ke perdonano per lo Tuo amore
et sostengono infirmitate et tribulatione.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Beati quelli ke 'l sosterranno in pace,
ka da Te, Altissimo, sirano incoronati.
Happy those who endure in peace,
for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.
Laudato si mi Signore, per sora nostra Morte corporale,
da la quale nullu homo uiuente pò skappare:
guai a quelli ke morrano ne le peccata mortali;
beati quelli ke trouarà ne le Tue sanctissime uoluntati,
ka la morte secunda no 'l farrà male.
Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.
Laudate et benedicete mi Signore et rengratiate
e seruiteli cum grande humilitate.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve him with great humility.

Note how Francis refers to the sun, wind, air and fire as brothers, and the moon, earth, water and death as sisters. The artist2 of the cross above also personifies the sun and moon with human faces, which emphasises that all God's creations are part of mankind's family; critical to life.

The owner of this cross has found it is not unique and the associated artwork may be a copy from a masterpiece. If you recognise this, please email us at info@seiyaku.com; we'd be delighted to hear from you.

Seven hundred years later...

All Creatures - score

The words of Laudes Creaturarum are beautiful but the style is perhaps not to everyone's taste. The chant's metre, if one can be found, is unfamiliar to most people. So in the early 20th century, a more up-to-date English variation was written by William H Draper (1855-1933), and called: All Creatures of our God and King

...and another hundred years after that

The words of 'All creatures of our God and King' are still beautiful but are a bit dated now. So here's challenge:

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a poet and would like to write something based on Laudes Creaturarum that would blow the socks off today's youth, send it to us (info@seiyaku.com) and we'll consider adding your words to this page. No promise that any fee-paying song publisher would be interested in your work, but you never know...


1: The sun and moon are personified, which adds an element of paganism.
Here, paganism is pushed to the side by the brilliance of God the Creator.
2: Beneath the writing is a (barely legible) signature of perhaps 'Ferrari', which might be the name of the artist.