The Stations of the Cross
At the end of his earthly ministry, and less than a week after his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus stood before a Roman court, sentenced to death under the direction of the Sanhedrin Council for blasphemous claims of godhead and kingship. Harshly flogged and mocked by his captors, he was made to shoulder the wooden gibbet to which he was to be nailed, and to make his way under the scorn of public mockery to an inglorious execution.
The final journey to that crucifixion on the hill of Calvary, also known as Golgotha, the Skull, is remembered by Catholics as the Way of the Cross, Via Crucis, or sometimes the Via Dolorosa - the Way of Sorrows. It is traditionally commemorated through a series of fourteen devotions and meditations contemplating events on that final walk. Many Catholic Churches represent these fourteen events, known as Stations of the Cross, with pictures or statuary.
St Werburgh's has a fine set of round painted enamel plaques representing each of the Stations. Each depiction, on a cobalt blue background, is framed in wood, surmounted by a cross. Liturgically, this simple cross of wood, recalling the crucifix on which Jesus was nailed, is the essence of the devotional aid.
The traditional Stations of the Cross (as practised since the end of the seventeenth century) are:
- Jesus is condemned to death
- Jesus takes up his Cross
- Jesus falls the first time
- Jesus meets his Mother
- Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his Cross
- Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
- Jesus falls the second time
- Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem
- Jesus falls the third time
- Jesus is stripped of his garments
- Jesus is nailed to the cross
- Jesus dies on the cross
- Jesus is taken down from the cross
- Jesus is laid in the tomb
and in this part of the website we describe each of the depictions in the set of Stations in St Werburgh's.
Earlier versions of the Way date back to medieval times, and the exact form has changed throughout history. Indeed, there continue to be changes. Not all the traditional events are recorded in the Gospels, and Pope John Paul II introduced a variant form in 1991 that reflects more closely the scriptural record.
Many churches have striking artistic representations of the Stations of the Cross, sometimes commissioned by brilliant contemporary artists. Among those well worth visiting are:
- Eric Gill's Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral
- Norman Adams' Stations of the Cross at the Hidden Gem, Manchester
- Sean Rice's Stations of the Cross in Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King
The Stations of Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral were the gift of Archbishop Derek Worlock (Archbishop of Liverpool 1976-1996) to his Cathedral Church following a presentation made to him by the people of the Archdiocese on the occasion of his Episcopal Silver Jubilee in 1992.
An unusual online Way of the Cross produced by the Tearmann Spirituality Centre leads the participant through the monastic landscape of Glendalough in Ireland: