Stations of the Cross
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Devotions to Christ
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Stations of the Cross refers to a series of images depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion and also to the prayers Christians say when contemplating those images. Often a series of 14 images will be arranged in numbered order around a church nave or along a path, and the faithful travel from image to image, in order, stopping at each "station" to say the selected prayers and reflections. This will be done individually or in groups. Occasionally the faithful might say the Stations of the Cross without there being any image, such as when the Pope leads the Stations of the Cross around the Colosseum in Rome on Good Friday. This practice is common in Roman Catholic, as well as in a number of Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist churches.
The style and form of the stations can vary widely and often reflect the artistic sensibility and spirituality of the time, place and culture of their creation. The stations can consist of small plaques with reliefs or paintings, or of simple crosses with a numeral in the centre.
The Stations of the Cross are also called the Via Dolorosa or Way of Sorrows, or simply, The Way. In Jerusalem, the Via Dolorosa is believed to be the actual path that Jesus walked, and the stations there, the actual places the events occurred.
The tradition of moving around the Stations to commemorate the Passion of Christ began with St. Francis of Assisi and extended throughout the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period. It is most commonly done during Lent, especially on Good Friday, but it also done on other days as well, especially Wednesdays and Fridays.
- History 1
- Spiritual significance 2
- Traditional form 3.1
- Scriptural Way of the Cross 3.2
- New Way of the Cross 3.3
- Modern usage 4
- Place of Christ's resurrection 5.1
- Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church 5.2
- Music 6
- Gallery 7
- See also 8
- References 9
- External links 10
The Stations of the Cross originated in pilgrimages to Jerusalem. A desire to reproduce the holy places in other lands seems to have manifested itself at quite an early date. At the monastery of Santo Stefano at Bologna a group of connected chapels was constructed as early as the 5th century, by St. Petronius, Bishop of Bologna, which was intended to represent the more important shrines of Jerusalem, and in consequence, this monastery became familiarly known as "Santa Gerusalemme". These may perhaps be regarded as the germ from which the Stations afterwards developed, though it is tolerably certain that nothing that we have before about the 15th century can strictly be called a Way of the Cross in the modern sense. Although several travelers who visited the Holy Land during the twelfth, thirteenth, and 14th centuries (e.g. Riccoldo da Monte di Croce, Burchard of Mount Sion, James of Verona), mention a "Via Sacra", i.e., a settled route along which pilgrims were conducted, there is nothing in their accounts to identify this with the Way of the Cross, as we understand it. The devotion of the Via Dolorosa, for which there have been a number of variant routes in Jerusalem, was probably developed by the Franciscans after they were granted administration of the Christian holy places in Jerusalem in 1342. Today, nine of the Stations of the Cross that were established by the Franciscans are located along the Via Dolorosa as it wends its way from the northwest corner of the Temple Mount to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, within which the remaining five stations are located.
The earliest use of the word "stations", as applied to the accustomed halting-places in the Via Sacra at Jerusalem, occurs in the narrative of an English pilgrim, William Wey, who visited the Holy Land in the mid-15th century, and described pilgrims following the footsteps of Christ to the cross. In 1521 a book called Geystlich Strass (German: "spiritual road") was printed with illustrations of the stations in the Holy Land.
During the 15th and 16th centuries the Franciscans began to build a series of outdoor shrines in Europe to duplicate their counterparts in the Holy Land. The number of stations varied between seven and thirty; seven was common. These were usually placed, often in small buildings, along the approach to a church, as in a set of 1490 by Adam Kraft, leading to the Johanneskirche in Nuremberg. A number of rural examples were established as attractions in their own right, usually on attractive wooded hills. These include the Sacro Monte di Domodossola (1657) and Sacro Monte di Belmonte (1712), and form part of the Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy World Heritage Site, together with other examples on different devotional themes. In these the sculptures are often approaching life-size and very elaborate. In 1686, in answer to their petition, Pope Innocent XI granted to the Franciscans the right to erect stations within their churches. In 1731, Pope Clement XII extended to all churches the right to have the stations, provided that a Franciscan father erected them, with the consent of the local bishop. At the same time the number was fixed at fourteen. In 1857, the bishops of England were allowed to erect the stations by themselves, without the intervention of a Franciscan priest, and in 1862 this right was extended to bishops throughout the church.
The object of the Stations is to help the faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer, through meditating upon the chief scenes of Christ's sufferings and death. It has become one of the most popular devotions for many Christians, especially among Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans, and "is often performed in a spirit of reparation for the sufferings and insults that Jesus endured during His Passion."
In his encyclical letter, Miserentissimus Redemptor, on reparations, Pope Pius XI called Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ a duty for Catholics and referred to them as "some sort of compensation to be rendered for the injury" with respect to the sufferings of Jesus. Pope John Paul II referred to Acts of Reparation as the "unceasing effort to stand beside the endless crosses on which the Son of God continues to be crucified".
The early set of seven scenes was usually numbers 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11, and 14 from the list below. The standard set from the 17th to 20th centuries has consisted of 14 pictures or sculptures depicting the following scenes:
- Jesus is condemned to death
- Jesus carries his cross
- Jesus falls the first time
- Jesus meets his mother
- Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross
- Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
- Jesus falls the second time
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
- Jesus falls the third time
- Jesus is stripped of his garments
- Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
- Jesus dies on the cross
- Jesus is taken down from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)
- Jesus is laid in the tomb.
Although not traditionally part of the Stations, the Resurrection of Jesus is sometimes included as a fifteenth station.
Scriptural Way of the Cross
Out of the fourteen traditional Stations of the Cross, only eight have clear scriptural foundation. Stations 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9 are not specifically attested to in the gospels (in particular, no evidence exists of station 6 ever being known before medieval times) and Station 13 (representing Jesus's body being taken down off the cross and laid in the arms of His mother Mary) seems to embellish the gospels' record, which states that Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus down from the cross and buried him. To provide a version of this devotion more closely aligned with the biblical accounts, Pope John Paul II introduced a new form of devotion, called the Scriptural Way of the Cross on Good Friday 1991. He celebrated that form many times but not exclusively at the Colosseum in Rome. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI approved this set of stations for meditation and public celebration: They follow this sequence:
- Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,
- Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested,
- Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin,
- Jesus is denied by Peter,
- Jesus is judged by Pilate,
- Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns,
- Jesus takes up his cross,
- Jesus is helped by Simon to carry his cross,
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem,
- Jesus is crucified,
- Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief,
- Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other,
- Jesus dies on the cross,
- Jesus is laid in the tomb
New Way of the Cross
In the Philippines, a third version of Stations of the Cross is used:
- The Last Supper
- The Agony in Gethsemani
- Jesus before the Sanhedrin
- The Scourging and Crowning with thorns
- Jesus receives the Cross
- Jesus falls under the weight of the Cross
- Simon of Cyrene carries the Cross of Jesus
- Jesus meets the pious Women of Jerusalem
- Jesus is nailed to the cross
- The Repentant Thief
- Mary and John at the foot of the cross
- Jesus dies on the cross
- Jesus is laid in the tomb
- Jesus rises from death
The devotion may be conducted personally by the faithful, making their way from one station to another and saying the prayers, or by having an officiating celebrant move from cross to cross while the faithful make the responses. The stations themselves must consist of, at the very least, fourteen wooden crosses, pictures alone do not suffice, and they must be blessed by someone with the authority to erect stations.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II led an annual public prayer of the Stations of the Cross at the Roman Colosseum on Good Friday. Originally, the Pope himself carried the cross from station to station, but in his last years when age and infirmity limited his strength, John Paul presided over the celebration from a stage on the Palatine Hill, while others carried the cross. Just days prior to his death in 2005, Pope John Paul II observed the Stations of the Cross from his private chapel. Each year a different person is invited to write the meditation texts for the Stations. Past composers of the Papal Stations include several non-Catholics. The Pope himself wrote the texts for the Great Jubilee in 2000 and used the traditional Stations.
The celebration of the Stations of the Cross is especially common on the Fridays of Lent, especially Good Friday. Community celebrations are usually accompanied by various songs and prayers. Particularly common as musical accompaniment is the Stabat Mater. At the end of each station the Adoramus Te is sometimes sung. The Alleluia is also sung, except during Lent.
Structurally, Mel Gibson's 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ, follows the Stations of the Cross. The fourteenth and last station, the Burial, is not prominently depicted (compared to the other thirteen) but it is implied since the last shot before credit titles is Jesus resurrected and about to leave the tomb.
Place of Christ's resurrection
Some modern liturgists say the traditional Stations of the Cross are incomplete without a final scene depicting the empty tomb and/or the resurrection of Jesus, because Jesus' rising from the dead was an integral part of his salvific work on Earth. Advocates of the traditional form of the Stations ending with the body of Jesus being placed in the tomb say the Stations are intended as a meditation on the atoning death of Jesus, and not as a complete picture of his life, death, and resurrection.
Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church
As part of a process of de-Latinization, the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church eliminated the devotion of the Stations of the Cross. In response to this, a schismatic group called the Society of Saint Josaphat (SSJK) has formed with a seminary of its own in Lviv with thirty students at present.
Peter Maxwell Davies's Vesalii Icones (1969), for male dancer, solo cello and instrumental ensemble, brings together the Stations of the Cross and a series of drawings from the anatomical treatise De humani corporis fabrica (1543) by the Belgian physician Andreas van Wesel (Vesalius). In Davies's sequence, the final 'station' represents the Resurrection, but of Antichrist, the composer's moral point being the need to distinguish what is false from what is real. David Bowie regarded his 1976 song, "Station to Station" as "very much concerned with the stations of the cross". Michael Valenti (known predominantly as a Broadway composer) wrote, with librettist Diane Seymour, an oratorio depicting the fourteen Stations of the Cross entitled "The Way". It was premiered in 1991. Stefano Vagnini's 2002 modular oratorio, Via Crucis, composition for organ, computer, choir, string orchestra and brass quartet, depicts the fourteen Stations of the Cross.
As the Stations of the Cross are prayed during the season of Lent in Catholic churches, each station is traditionally followed by a verse of the Stabat Mater, composed in the 13th century by Franciscan Jacopane da Todi.
1st Station, Jesus is condemned to death
2nd Station, Jesus carries his cross
3rd Station, Jesus falls the first time
4th Station, Jesus meets his mother
5th Station, Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross
6th Station, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7th Station, Jesus falls the second time
8th Station, Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9th Station, Jesus falls the third time
10th Station, Jesus is stripped of his garments
11th Station, Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
12th Station, Jesus dies on the cross
13th Station, Jesus is taken down from the cross
14th Station, Jesus is laid in the tomb
- Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ
- Life of Jesus in the New Testament
- Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy
- Seven Sorrows of Mary
- Seven Last Words from the Cross
- Bologna: Le nuove guide Oro, page 166, Touring Club Italiano, Touring Editore, 2004, ISBN 8836530079, ISBN 9788836530076.
- THURSTON, Herbert: The Stations of the Cross
- Schiller, Gertrud, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II, p. 82, 1972 (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, ISBN 0-85331-324-5
- The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907). s.v. "The Way of the Cross".
- Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 0-87973-910-X
- Miserentissimus Redemptor, Encyclical of Pope Pius XI
- Pope John Paul II, Letter to Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, for the 50th anniversary of the Benedictine Sisters of Reparation of the Holy Face, 27 September 2000 (Vatican archives)
- Schiller, 82
- Joseph M Champlin, The Stations of the Cross With Pope John Paul II Liguori Publications, 1994, ISBN 0-89243-679-4
- Pope John Paul II, Meditation and Prayers for the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum, Good Friday, 2000
- Review, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2004
- Composer's note in the published score (Boosey and Hawkes, B & H 20286).
- Falcon Valley Music Ed., Stefano Vagnini, Via Crucis, Rome, Italy, 2002
- "Way of the Cross" article from The Catholic Encyclopedia
- A list of recent Via Crucis used by The Vatican on Good Fridays from the Official Vatican website.
- Scriptural Stations of the Cross from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops