People driving on Highway 101 past Mission San Miguel may soon see a new landmark. The money for it is pledged. Plans are being drawn. It would be a 12-foot tall copy of the San Damiano Cross.
The San Damiano Cross is loved by members of the Franciscan orders of the Roman Catholic Church.
It was Franciscan friars who founded Mission San Miguel in 1797. And they still run it, although the mission’s history includes Mexican government confiscation, private ownership, abandonment and neglect.
The mission’s present Franciscan pastor is the Rev. Larry Gosselin. Almost everyone calls him Father Larry.
He told me the original San Damiano Cross is in a church in Assisi, Italy. But in the 1200s, it hung in a small, dilapidated chapel where a young man went one day to pray.
Father Larry said the cross spoke to the young man, saying “Rebuild the church.” At first he thought that meant to rebuild the little chapel. But later he went on to attract many followers. Today we know him as St. Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscan orders.
You can see pictures of the San Damiano Cross on the Internet. It isn’t like the crucifixes I’m used to. They are three-dimensional sculptures.
The San Damiano Cross is a flat, Byzantine-style painting on cloth-covered wood. It’s also wider and longer than the crosses I’m used to.
On it are 32 smaller, related images including saints, God’s hand and a rooster.
Father Larry had long wanted to erect a San Damiano Cross near the mission’s new parish hall, but he lacked the money. It could cost more than $10,000.
Then, last fall, a memorial service was held at the mission for Dr. Daniel Blackburn Frost, who died that summer. He was a great-great-grandson of one of the founders of Paso Robles, Daniel D. Blackburn.
After the service, Frost’s father, F. Daniel Frost of Kennewick, Wash. asked if he could help the mission. Father Larry suggested the San Damiano Cross. Mr. Frost agreed. A plaque on its pedestal will say “In Memory of Dr. Daniel Blackburn Frost, 1949-2009.”
That cross will be made by Jose Solis, who owns Creative Art Services of Portland, Ore. His creations include church murals, TV sets, special-event sets and signs.
The cross he plans is 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide. (That’s about twice the size of the original San Damiano Cross.) The pedestal will raise it another 2½ feet. It’s expected to be finished in about six weeks.
Contact Phil Dirkx at email@example.com or 238-2372.