For the last few months, Batic has been working diligently on the five-foot-high by four-foot-wide replica of the San Damiano Cross. Earlier this month he completed the painting on a wooden cross made out of maple wood and delivered it to St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Krotz Springs, a small town near Opelousas.
Nine months ago Batic was commissioned by Fr. Mark Ledoux, the pastor from Krotz Springs, to paint the Damiano Cross for his church.
The only problem with that was Batic was mainly a sculptor who dealt with bronze. Painting large crosses was something he had never done before, but he did not back down from the challenge.
Fr. Mark requested that he paint as close to the original San Damiano Cross as possible, but Batic informed him he did not copy other artist’s work. Batic said he’d paint his own version of the cross.
Fr. Mark told him he wanted a painted crucifix that would last thousands of years.
Before he began the nine-month project, he moved into an empty room in the Cultural Center in Abbeville where he worked six days a week.
The San Damiano Cross was first painted in the year 1100. The purpose of the icon cross was to teach the meaning of the event depicted and thereby strengthen the faith of the people. The artist was unknown.
Batic did his research on the cross and how to preserve a painting for thousands of years. A lumber yard in Opelousas created the wooden structure the painting would go on top of.
“It consumed a lot of my time,” said Batic. “It was a challenge. I could not breathe for this project. Some people think an artist just puts paint on his brush, but there is a lot more work to it than that.”
Because Fr. Mark wanted the painting to last for thousands of years, he had to build up the paint.
“There were times when I was exhausted, but I was never tired of the work,” he added. “I was too challenged.”
Batic added his special touch to the painting by changing the colors on certain parts; the biggest change is that he added 140 bronze shells around the cross.
The shells outline Jesus Christ and the figures around him.
He delivered the work on Sept. 9 and Batic enjoyed the finished product.
“I am pleased how it turned out,” he said. “Now I can breath.”