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The Exaltation of the Cross

Since the early Middle Ages, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross has been celebrated on September the 14th. To meditate on this feast St. Francis of Assisi retired to La Verna, where, not long before his death, he received the stigmata, .

Heraclius Carries the Cross to Jerusalem

Piero has placed the final scene of the cycle in the lunette at the top of the wall, where it not only matches the opening scene on the opposite wall but also where the relation to the heavenly realm is the strongest. Heraclius had been stopped by an angel when he tried to enter Jerusalem on horseback wearing the trappings of a warrior emperor. Now he has shed his finery and walks barefoot (like the Discalced Franciscan friars) carrying the Cross in his hands. [Unhappily the paint on much of the figure has been lost.] At the head of a procession of attendants, again exotically dressed in eastern garb, he acts out the ancient ceremony of Adventus, the Roman ritual of greeting, held outside the city to honor a visiting official; in this ritual, the further from the city the crowd comes out, the higher the honor. The distance from the great walled city in the background on the right is suggested by the small scale of a white-haired elder who scurries along the path. In this ceremony it is not the emperor but the cross that is paid respect. Piero has rendered devotion, obeisance, and emotional response to the relic in the kneeling worshippers by tilting their heads in a variety of subtle angles.

So ends the cycle as it began, with the focus of attention on the wood of the sacred Cross.