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About Our Crucifix Over the Altar

The new crucifix for St. Clare of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in Surprise, Arizona was installed on Friday, July 24, 2009. The pastor collaborated with Steven Schloeder of Liturgical Environs in Phoenix and with parishioners to design this piece.  King Richard’s Religious Artifacts of Atlanta, Georgia, worked with Ars Sacra 1875 Ferdinand Stuflesser who made the artifact in their studios in Ortisei, northern Italy. 

The inspiration for the crucifix came from the San Damiano Crucifix, the original of which hung in San Damiano Monastery is Assisi, Italy, the monastery where St. Clare spent many years in prayer, poverty and charity.  The San Damiano Crucifix, now hanging in our narthex shows angels and saints, including the Blessed Virgin Mary with St. John the Evangelist and shows Jesus with his eyes open.


The new crucifix, approximately 12 feet tall and 9 feet wide and weighing about 600 pounds, is suspended over the altar using aircraft cable.  The body of Christ is three-dimensional and around him are paintings completed in the style of the early renaissance in harmony with the interior colors of the church.  His eyes are open as he speaks to His Mother, “Woman, behold, your son” and to St. John, “Behold, your mother” (John 19:26-27).  There is no wound shown in his side because it was only after he died that the soldier thrust his lance into his side (John 19:34).  The nails are through the heel of his hands where the bones are firmest as scholars have said this area is more likely than the center of the palms which would not have been able to support the weight of his body.


The left panel is of Our Blessed Mother Mary gazing upward at Christ.  The right panel is of St. John the Evangelist looking forward to beckon the viewer to come closer and to encounter Christ.  There are four “Angels of the Passion” around Christ holding instruments of the passion of Christ (“arma Christi”), one with hammer and nails, one with a scourge (handle with whips), one with a crown of thorns and one with a ladder for lowering Our Lord into the arms of His Mother.  The skull at the bottom reminds us that Christ was crucified at “the place of the skull” (in latin, calvaria, in Greek, golgotha in Aramaic, gulgata; Mt 27:33, Mk 15:22, Luke 23:33, Jn 19:17).  According to Origen, an early Christian scholar (184-254), Golgotha was named after the skull of Adam, who was allegedly buried there (cf. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, 1987).  The image of a skull is often seen in Catholic art depicting saints reflecting on their own mortality and eternal life.  It is also sometimes seen at the base of the crucifix.  The skull moves us to consider our own death and our readiness for eternal life.  Christ brings us victory over death and thus His blood is seen dripping on the skull of Adam.  Adam and Eve brought sin into the world.  As St. Paul tells us, Jesus is the new Adam who brings us freedom from slavery of sin. (cf. Rom 5:12-19, 1 Cor 15:22-27, 45-49). Mary is the new Eve.  The letters above Christ are an abbreviation of the Latin sign saying “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews” (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum).  Pilate had this inscription put on the cross in Hebrew, Greek and Latin (John 19:19).

Angels of the Passion
If you have every visited Rome and Vatican City, you have probably walked across the Ponte Sant'Angelo (Saint Angelo Bridge), built in 134AD, which leads directly to Castel Sant'Angelo. The bridge is lined with ten statues of the Angels of the Passion as well as statue of Saint Peter and Paul. Read more on Wikipedia.

Every time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we participate in the death and resurrection of Christ.  We touch Him and He touches us.  We pray that the crucifix will foster a deeper devotion to Our Lord and the Holy Eucharist.  We are very grateful to the generous donors who made this new crucifix possible.

Scott & Elaine Montgomery  
Robert & Denise Messer Michael Alan Messer
Richard & Carol Roberts  Barney & Adeline Mlodzik and Richard & Josephine Roberts
Irene Hassett   Her beloved husband, Joseph D. Hassett
Anonymous     Her beloved husband 



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