In 1968 Azuma was commissioned by the Capuchin Friars of Sion to produce a Cross destined for their convent, a work involving other artists including Alberto Burri and Antoni Tàpies. Educated according to Zen doctrine, the Japanese artist meditated long on the theme of the Cross and lived for a period of time with the Friars in order to penetrate into their spirituality more deeply. Around a year after receiving the commission he produced three models, which were however refused. It was Paul VI, who became aware of Azuma’s work and in 1971 asked him to make a bronze cast of the first of the three studies, the one closest to Christian tradition, for the nascent Collection of Modern Religious Art. A work that combines monumentality, formal simplicity and attention to detail, its metallic surface mimics the rough texture of wood, evoked by the presence of holes and the vertical grain.