The Miraculous Eleventh Century Plague Crucifix of San Miniato

The Church and Sanctuary of the Holy Crucifix (Chiesa o Santuario del Santissimo Crocifisso) is located within San Miniato in the beautiful, central Italian region of Tuscany. This baroque era church is home to an impressive eleventh century crucifix -- one that is believed to be miraculous -- known as the crucifix of Castelvecchio.  The church in question is not only where the crucifix is situated it should be noted; the church was built between the year 1705-1718 precisely to house the crucifix.

According to the diocesan website:
Popular devotion to this "prodigious" wooden simulacrum, dating back to the eleventh century, abandoned in San Miniato according to the legend by two travellers, became in the years 1628 to 1631, marked by the scourge of the plague, strong and heartfelt in the great hopes of help [from the plague]. On this occasion, the famous vow was sanctioned from which, by the will of Bishop Poggi, the construction of the new church to guard, honour and venerate the image of the "miraculous Crucifix," thanks to which the population would had been spared "from yet another epidemic."

This crucifix has a quality to it that is rustic and graphic in its depiction, emphasizing the sufferings of Christ, further beautified by a later backdrop of red velvet, gold galloons and stars. 

As mentioned earlier, this beautiful example of medieval art has been surrounded by a baroque temple that itself is impressive in its own right -- a good reminder that the Church has always allowed different styles to intermix and intermingle, but always in a way that is complementary and consonant with the tradition.  The church boasts an impressive cycle of frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Christ by Domenico Bamberini. 

As is frequently the case with miraculous images, they are not always openly exposed all of the time -- lending itself to a greater impact and devotion when it is exposed. In this particular instance the crucifix is veiled by another image at other times -- an image of Christ resurrected.

The painted veil seen behind the altar cross.

Given the historical background of the crucifix in the region related to the plague, it will likely come as no surprise that early on the coronavirus epidemic, the present bishop of the diocese of San Miniato ordered that the crucifix should be exposed for five consecutive days. 

This cross and that event may put our readers to mind of another miraculous medieval Italian crucifix that was displayed publicly early on in the pandemic, the miraculous crucifix of San Marcello al Corso in Rome.

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