Scientists verify that the Italian crucifix is ​​the oldest wood statue in Europe

Scientists verify that the Italian crucifix is ​​the oldest wood statue in Europe

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Scientists confirmed this month that a crucifix in the Italian city of Lucca is the oldest wooden statue in Europe.

A radiocarbon dating study conducted by the National Institute for Nuclear Physics in Florence dated the 8-foot wooden crucifix to AD 770 to 880.

The study was commissioned by Lucca Cathedral to mark the 950th anniversary of the cathedral's inauguration in the late 12th century.

Devotion to the crucifix, known as the "Holy Face of Lucca", spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages when pilgrims stopped in the walled Tuscan town on their way along the Via Francigena pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome.

Dante mentions the Holy Face of Lucca in his "Inferno", and the English King William II took a solemn vow in the name of the Holy Face in 1087.

The scientific study confirmed the local Catholic tradition based on a historical document that the crucifix arrived in Lucca at the end of the 8th century, according to the Archdiocese of Lucca. However, there is no evidence to support the legend that it was carved out of life by Nicodemus, a contemporary of Christ.

"Much has been written about the Holy Face for centuries, but always in terms of faith and piety."
Annamaria Giusti, scientific advisor to Lucca Cathedral, said in a statement from the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics.

“It wasn't until the 20th century that a major critical debate about dating and style began. The prevailing opinion was that it was a work that was to be dated in the second half of the 12th century. Finally, evaluating this antique closed this age-old controversial issue, ”said Giusti.

"We can now look at the oldest wooden statue in the west that has been passed on to us."

In the Carbon 14 study, three wood samples were taken from different parts of the crucifix and one of the linen fabrics to be evaluated. Each piece dates from the last decades of the 8th century to the beginning of the 9th century.

Archbishop Paolo Giulietti of Lucca welcomed the results of the study as a timely "message of salvation from Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified out of love and risen in the power of God."

"The Holy Face is not just one of the many crucifixes in our Italy and Europe," he said. "It is … a" living memory "of the crucified and risen Christ."

"It is a monument that has its origins in antiquity, as today's announcement confirms for us, and that has left indelible traces in the culture, spirituality of Lucca and throughout the continent."

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Lucca Cathedral has postponed scheduled events celebrating its 950th anniversary until the fall. It is unclear whether the city's annual candlelight procession will be held on September 13 in honor of the Holy Face this year, as many similar processions in Italy have been canceled.

The crucifix, at least 1,140 years old, can be viewed in the Lucca Cathedral of St. Martin.

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