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The Lampedusa cross: A symbol of salvation and perseverance

Lampedusa cross

The British Museum | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Lucien de Guise - published on 03/26/21

A new exhibition at the British Museum features a cross crafted from the timbers of a boat wrecked off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, in 2013

The British Museum recently announced another initiative with a strongly Christian emphasis. This follows the constant delays to its exhibition on St. Thomas Becket. Starting in May, the flagship institution is initiating a UK-wide, COVID-proof tour of a cross.

Made by a Sicilian carpenter, the British Museum artifact has a distressing back story. It was crafted from the timbers of a boat wrecked off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy in 2013. The deaths of hundreds of refugees moved local artisan Francisco Tuccio to make crosses from what remained of the boat. These were given to the Eritrean Christian survivors as a symbol of salvation and perseverance.

Tuccio went on to make more crosses from the same source. Pope Francis is among the many to have one. So does the Museum of the Cross, which put it on public display four years ago.

Photo by Lucien de Guise
A cross fabricated from the timbers of boat carrying Libyan migrants that shipwrecked off the island of Lampedusa in 2013, is part of the collection of the Museum of the Cross.

The simplicity of Tuccio’s work is part of its power. To create something so resonant from two pieces of flotsam and a few nails is deeply moving. The same effect has been achieved in parts of France by joining two charred beams of wood from buildings set alight by Nazi forces during the Second World War. The Lampedusa Cross is more colorful and tells a heartwarming story of human kindness, as well as retelling the daily news of desperate individuals escaping conflict and privation.

The virtual Museum of the Cross

This work by Francisco Tuccio is from the collection of the Museum of the Cross, the first institution dedicated to the diversity of the most powerful and far-reaching symbol in history. After 10 years of preparation, the museum was almost ready to open; then came COVID-19. In the meantime, the virtual museum is starting an Instagram account to engage with Aleteia readers and the stories of their own crucifixes: @crossXmuseum

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