Friday 3 April 2015

Record of the Week: Stations of the Cross

Good Friday observances usually include the Stations of Cross because they encourage the faithful to reflect, pray and mediate on the events of Christ's Passion.  Most famous, perhaps, is the televised Way of the Cross through the ancient Roman Colosseum that the Pope traces as part of his annual Good Friday devotions.

We are all familiar with Stations of the Cross found in every church and chapel - tableaux usually mounted on the walls in a sequential circuit around the walls of the nave.  So ubiquitous are these Stations that we might not give very much thought to their history. Did you know...?

  • The Stations probably evolved from the Way of the Cross or Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.  This was the path that pilgrims were encouraged to follow during their pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
  • The development of the Via Dolorosa is often attributed to the Franciscans, after they were granted administration of the Christian holy sites in Jerusalem in 1342.
  • In the 15th and 16th centuries, seeking to replicate the Way of the Cross for pilgrims in Europe, the Franciscans laid out similar shrines or meditation stations along pilgrimage routes on the Continent.
  • The number of stations along these routes varied between 7 and 30.
  • In 1686, Pope Innocent XI granted the Franciscans the right to erect stations within their churches.  Following that, the right was extended to all churches, as long as the Stations were erected by Franciscans and with the Bishop's permission. At this time the number of Stations was fixed at fourteen.
  • Of these fourteen accepted stations, only eight are clearly founded in Scripture. Stations 3, 4, 6, 7 and 9 are not described in the Gospels.
  • To provide a version more closely aligned with the Bible, Pope John Paul II introduced a new form of devotion, the Scriptural Way of the Cross, in 1991.
  • Minimal requirements for the Stations are fourteen wooden crosses and numerals; pictures alone do not suffice.  For example, during outdoor Good Friday processions (and when the Pope processes around the Colosseum tonight), the Stations are said without any images - just temporary crosses to mark the way.
  • The devotion is also shared by Anglican and Lutheran denominations.

At the Archives, we have photographs of any least one station from each of our churches. Today, we've pulled together a full set from fourteen different parishes that exemplify the wide range of style, material, size and subject matter of the Stations of the Cross found across our Archdiocese:

1986 Parish Photographic Survey, Slide Collection, PH78 #163

I. Jesus is condemned to death
St. Paschal Baylon Church, Thornhill
2008 ARCAT Cultural Heritage Inventory Pilot Project, #084C002

II. Jesus carries his cross
St. Mary's Church, Toronto
1986 Parish Photographic Survey, Slide Collection, PH78 #49

III. Jesus falls the first time
Our Lady Queen of the World, Richmond Hill
2008 ARCAT Cultural Heritage Inventory Pilot Project, #121C004

IV. Jesus meets his mother
St. Clare of Assisi Church, Woodbridge

These Stations, painted on tiles, were created by an artist from Assisi in Italy, hometown of the parish's patroness.
1986 Parish Photographic Survey, Slide Collection, PH78 #25

V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross
Holy Spirit Church, Scarborough
2008 ARCAT Cultural Heritage Inventory Pilot Project, #062C006

VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
St. Fidelis Church, Toronto

These Stations were made in Tanzania.
1992 Archdiocesan Sesquicentennial Calendar Project, PH76/48T

VII. Jesus falls the second time
Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto, Motherhouse Chapel at Morrow Park

These marble Stations, carved in a neoclassic style, uniquely feature a female figure in each vignette, which was specifically commissioned by the religious community of Sisters.
Photographs Collection, PH0093/50CP

VIII. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
St. Paul's Basilica, Toronto
1986 Parish Photographic Survey, Slide Collection, PH78 #7

IX. Jesus falls the third time
Blessed Trinity Church, Toronto
Photographs Collection, PH78-154/18CP

X. Jesus is stripped of his garments
St. Mary Immaculate Church, Richmond Hill

Photographs Collection, PH0055/18CP

XI: Jesus is nailed to the cross
St. Clare's Church
1986 Parish Photographic Survey, Slide Collection, PH78 #139

XII. Jesus dies on the cross
St. Margaret of Scotland Church, Toronto
Photographs Collection, PH0072-15PXIII.

Jesus is taken down from the cross

St. John Bosco, Toronto

1986 Parish Photographic Survey, Slide Collection, PH78 #22

XIV. Jesus is laid in the tomb
Holy Name Church, Toronto

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