Welcome! This blog celebrates both the local and the catholic -- that is, universal -- aspects of the Roman Catholic Church by sharing reflections on experiences of the Church in a variety of settings and cultures. Postings will come from around the world and around the corner. You don't have to be a Catholic to come along.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Cross on the Cathedral

The inside of almost every Catholic church offers a visual feast: statues, paintings, stained glass windows, and more. But in on the way in, most of the time we hurry past some interesting images outside as well.

For example, the main portals of the Pisan-Romanesque Duomo di San Martino (St. Martin Cathedral) in Tuscany's ancient walled city of Lucca, is notable for highly regarded 13th century carvings by the artists Nicola Pisano and Guidetto da Como. (The cathedral itself was begun in 1063.)

On a recent visit there, I also saw a Jerusalem Cross on the outside front wall. This familiar style of cross, made of up one big cross and four smaller ones together representing the wounds of Christ, comes from the shield of Sr. Godfrey de Bouillon, leader of the First Crusade.

Tradition holds that Sir Godfrey founded the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in 1099. Today the order exists in large part to support the dwindling ranks of Christians in th Holy Land. And the symbol of the order -- which appears on the capes, berets and medals of the knights and ladies -- is the Jerusalem Cross.

So what's it doing on a cathedral in Lucca? According to a small book available at our hotel, which I read but did not buy, there's a connection between the Duomo di San Martino and Holy Land: pilgrimage destinations. Why pilgrams have been coming to San Martino since the Middle Ages is a subject for another time.

What goes on inside churches is the most important. But what's on the outside is sometimes very interesting.

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