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.
|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