The History of the San Damiano Cross
When the image of Christ in the crucifix at San Damiano miraculously spoke to St. Francis, saying, "Go repair my Church, which as you see is falling completely in ruin", he was awakened to new zeal. He first concentrated on repairing the church buildings of San Damiano and nearby churches. But his great "repair" to the Church was the beginning of the Franciscan Order, which began with the followers that Christ began to send to him shortly after the vision.
The original crucifix was painted by an unknown Umbrian artist in the twelfth century. It is strikingly iconographic in character; because of this, many identify the artist as a Syrian monk, since there were known to have been Syrian monks in the area at that time. In 1257, the Order of Poor Ladies left San Damiano for San Giorgio, taking the crucifix with them. It was displayed publicly for the first time in modern times in Holy Week of 1957, over the new altar in San Giorgio's Chapel in the Basilica of St. Clare of Assisi.