Michelangelo Completes his Wooden Crucifix

The Crucifix is a polychrome wood sculpture thought to be by High Renaissance master Michelangelo, finished in 1492.

It is located at the high altar of the Church of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito in Florence, Italy. The work is especially notable for the fact that this Christ is portrayed nude.

A nude Jesus on the cross is nonetheless keeping true to Scripture. His clothing being removed by Roman Soldiers was the fulfillment of Psalm 22:18, "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." All of the Gospel writers suggest the nakedness while John supplies the details:

"Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, ‘They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots.’ These things therefore the soldiers did."

Unique to this crucifix is the sign attached to the cross. It includes Jesus' accusation inscribed in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The wording is "JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS." All of the evangelists record this inscription which varies slightly among them. Here the artist favored the rendering from John's Gospel.

There is evidence of Jesus' encounter with Pontius Pilate in this work. The very person who wrote His title or accusation "and put it on the cross." The "chief priests of the Jews" contested the wording. They told the Roman governor not to write Jesus was "the King of the Jews." Rather, Jesus said He was "the King of the Jews." Pilate refused to change the wording on the sign.

"What I have written I have written," he told them.

Also present is the spear wound inflicted into Jesus’ side by a Roman soldier. The fulfillment of another scripture which saith, "They shall look on him whom they pierced." His blood is seen here dripping from the wound. A wound inflicted for our transgressions soon after Jesus declared "It is finished,” bowed his head and gave up the ghost.

If this crucifix was by High Renaissance master, Michelangelo, his portrayal of a nude Jesus, along with the accuracy of other details, is consistent with the biblical record. A piece reminiscent in the words of Jesus when He said, "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."

"The cross is the judgment of the world." - C. I. Scofield