New San Damiano Cross a blessing for Gwelup retirement village

16 Sep 2021

By Jamie O'Brien

Residents, staff and family of the Mt La Verna Retirement Village have last week been blessed with a new cross of San Damiano.

The cross, written by Marice Sariola was blessed by Geraldton Emeritus Bishop Justin Bianchini on Wednesday 8 September, in the presence of the Mt La Verna community.

The painting and making of icons is referred to as being “written” rather than painted as the Orthodox consider making icons more a form of prayer than art, and they believe the iconographer’s hand is guided by God.

The San Damiano Cross is the largest Romanesque rood cross before which St Francis of Assisi was praying when he is said to have received the commission from the Lord to rebuild the Church.

It now hangs in the Basilica of Saint Clare (Basilica di Santa Chiara) in Assisi, Italy, with a replica in its original position in the church of San Damiano nearby.

The Franciscan order cherish this cross as the symbol of their mission from God.

Mt La Verna CEO Lee Hare said the new cross will hang in the main hall, just off the entrance to the Administration building.

“It is hoped that the whole Mt La Verna community will be able to look with much inspiration on this cross, reflecting on the life of St Francis,” Mr Hare said.

“To have such a historic replica that we hope will be around for generations to come is a huge blessing to all of us here at Mt La Verna,” he said.

Speaking on the day of the blessing, Board Chair Judy Wallace thanked Ms Sariola for writing the new cross and also to Emeritus Bishop Bianchini for being present for the occasion.

“The Board and staff of Mt La Verna have very much appreciated the work of Ms Sariola in helping us bring this project to life,” she said.

“It is a beautiful icon that has been created with much care and precision and the Mt La Verna community are most grateful,” she said.

Ms Sariola told The Record that the icon took more than four weeks to develop, with the wooden carving completed by her husband Jukka Kautto.

Originally from Finland, Ms Sariola has been writing icons for more than 33 years.