Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saint Dominic with Cross

Saint Dominic with Cross
Mother Francis Raphael discovered “a picture Our Lady in the church of St. James at Muret, which was built as a memorial of the victory in the course of the same year, we see a picture representing the Blessed Virgin giving the Rosary to St. Dominic, who holds in his right hand a crucifix pierced with three arrows; on the other side of our Lady kneel Simon de Montfort and Fulk of Toulouse.  A facsimile of this picture, and of the same date, was long kept in the Dominican church at Toulouse.”   

Mother Francis Raphael was careful to admit it was not possible to determine whether this picture alluded to an event which really took place, or was itself the origin of the tradition and the painting can no longer be found.  long forgotten tradition holds that Saint Dominic ascended one of the towers at the Battle of Muret in order to display the crucifix for the encouragement of the Christian troops.  This crucifix was shot through with arrows by the heretics who despised it and preserved in a church in Toulouse.  Centuries later a crucifix pierced all over with arrows, supposed to have been the identical one used by Saint Dominic on the occasion, was on display in Toulouse.  However, this intriguing story has been repudiated by many hagiographers. 

The cross pierced by arrows was adopted by the Counts of Toulouse and eventually became the symbol of the whole Occitan region.  The heretics who battled against the Christians rejected the cross and the belief that the crucifixion and resurrection of Our Lord led to salvation.  Heretics who recanted were forced to wear the yellow cross shot through with arrows on their clothing as a sign of humiliation.  Thus the same symbol is known as the Cathar Cross and reference to its connection with Saint Dominic fell by the wayside.  The cross known throughout the world as the Dominican Cross is half black and half white creating a 3-dimensional effect.  Rather than arms ending in an arrow shape, the arms of the Dominican Cross end in the lily shape known as the fleur-de-lis.
Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, (p. 50).