At the center of the nave, high above the steps that separate the lower from the upper church, is the magnificent crucifix by Giotto, who, probably painted it between 1288 and 1289.

Far from Santa Maria Novella for over twenty years, it was masterfully restored in 2000 and came back to the church where, except for the relatively short period of its stay in the sacristy, it had always been, albeit in different locations. Originally above the high altar or, more likely looking out over the faithful, on the “bridge” demolished by Vasari – more or less at the place and height where it is today – in the first half of the 16th century it was moved to the inner facade, above the central portal where it remained until 1937 supported by stone foundations made during the 19th century restoration and still visible.

The Crucifix is now at the center of the church and raised high, like God the ruler’s standard. It was inspired by the School of Franciscan spirituality of Christus patiens which highlights the theme of love rather than glory hence its colors are black, white and red, representing respectively death, pure innocence, blood and, consequently, the Passion. The image shows Christ's body caught at the moment of the ebbing away of life symbolized by the blood flowing from his limbs, and of the personal matter of the soul exalted by divine incarnation and, therefore, ready for the Resurrection.

Here, the extraordinary beauty lies in the realism of the figure, which no longer fits the idealized form of Byzantine art, but is a truer reflection of reality. In the Christ depicted by the famous painter one senses that everybody becomes divine in Christ and is, therefore, destined for eternal life even if tortured or tormented by pain and any form of evil.

In True man, as painted by Giotto on the Cross, one sees the complete dedication of the Dominicans to the fight against the Cathar heresy that asserted the absolute negativity of devilish matter over the spiritual. Victory over this heresy that denied the divinity of Christ's humanity eventually made possible a Humanism that was both civilian and Christian. It was therefore also the foundation of civilization by virtue of its Christian roots, proclaiming liberty, fraternity and equality to all men, and thus contributed decisively to the definition of human rights, a fact due universal recognition today.