Oil on wood by Martin Erspamer, OSB, a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey
Dominican House of Studies
St. Louis, Missouri
FROM THE ARTIST:
The composition of the cross is based on input from the friars and Fr. Bouchard and a bit of art history thrown into the mix. I was told that the Dominicans have a special devotion to the living Jesus on the cross so there is no wound in his side and his eyes are open. The position of the figure of Christ is the Christus Patiens, the patient, enduring Christ. Above Jesus' head and hands are the sun, moon and stars - the cosmic witnesses to his death. The sun and moon are looking away in sorrow and shame. At Jesus's feet is a half circle of vegetation representing the earth. The cross is the axis mundi, the pole of the earth, uniting earth to heaven. The cross is also the tree of life and so from the lower part of the cross, leaves and vines spring forth. These vines also make reference to the mosaic in the apse of St. Clemente in Rome. The theme is similar but the mosaic was made under the patronage of the Dominicans in the 13th century and there are many images of Dominicans interwoven into the tendrils of the mosaic. Standing beneath the arms of the cross are Albert the Great and Martin de Porres, the patrons of the Central and Southern provinces. Beneath the arms of the cross is a scroll also with a text in praise of the cross by Venantius.
There are two smaller figures in the composition. One is wearing the mantle and beret of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. He is the donor and a benefactor and friend of the Dominicans. He holds in his hand a scroll inscribed with a line from an ancient hymn in praise of the cross by Venantius Fortunatus. The other small figure is dressed as a Benedictine monk and holding paint brushes. I painted myself among the tendrils as a sort of signature. In very tiny letters on the vine near the figure are the words, "martinus me fecit." Martin made me.