Guido Dettoni, present in Assisi since 2000 with his exhibition MARIA, felt compelled at the end of 2004, to give body to this two-dimensional sign, freeing it from its aesthetic condition of letter of the alphabet to discover the corporeity of Christ in a moment of elevation, almost of flight.
In his studio in Assisi, Guido Dettoni discovers his TAU by shaping the wax in his hands, alternating between sight and blindness, letting the corpus emerge into reality. Later he reproduces it in wood to the original height of 17 cm, and in 2005 he enlarges it to a height of two meters, sculpting it from linden wood to exhibit it on April 30 of the same year in the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi during the concert “Embracing the TAU” composed by Giuseppe Magrino o.f.m.
The light shade of ochre, similar to the colour of the linden tree, recalled Giotto’s frescoes of the Basilica; in the new location, Dettoni wanted to make the colour darker to match one of the Franciscan habits.
In 2008, the Franciscan Sisters of the Regens-Wagner Foundation of Dillingen installed in their meditation room at the Convent of St. Damian in Augsburg, Germany a 50-cm-tall replica of the TAU, carved from linden wood.
In 2019, the Franciscan sisters of the Bonlanden convent in Germany commissioned the artist to make a copy of the 2-metre-high TAU carved in lime wood and an enlargement in red Verona marble of the work MARIA.
A chapel at the monastery in the Faustin-Mennel House was set up to accommodate them. In it, the two sculptures were installed in 2021.
Ezekiel 9:4 (Wycliffe Bible)
4 And the Lord said to him, Pass thou by the midst of the city, in the midst of Jerusalem, and mark thou Tau on the foreheads of men wailing and sorrowing on all [the] abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
The Thaw () is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the Tau ( T ) is the nineteenth letter of the Greek one.
The TAU is the symbol of redemption, associated with the sign on the forehead of the redeemed in the vision of Ezekiel (Ez 9:4) and with the “seal of the living God” that the angel pressed on the foreheads of the redeemed at the final judgment, as described in Revelation (Rev 7:2-3).
During his secular life, St. Francis was associated with the religious community of St. Anthony the Great (founded in 1095), which helped lepers. They hung a TAU cross, the symbol of St. Anthony. (born 251, died 356 A.D. – Being the first adopting the TAU).
The symbolism of the TAU acquired an even deeper meaning for St. Francis when Innocent III promoted a major reform of the Catholic Church in 1215, and he was able to hear the Pope’s homily at the opening of the Fourth Lateran Council, which contained the same exhortation as the prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament (Innocent III, Sermo VI, PL 217, 673- 678). This symbolic vision, used by the same Pope who had approved Francis’ new community only five years earlier, was immediately accepted as an invitation to conversion. Because of its symbolic and spiritual depth, Francis also used the TAU for his community (founded in 1209). Great was his love and faith in this sign, as St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio writes in the Life of St. Francis of Assisi (Legenda maior, chap. IV, 9).
Iconic, according to the MOMA’s Glossary of Art Terms:
having the character of an icon, i.e., an important and enduring symbol, an object of great attention and devotion