Spiritual GrowthPrayer Group Homilies Spirit Night
Stations of the Cross
Where did the Stations of the Cross come from? After Jesus died and rose from the dead, many people reflected upon his passion and death. They began to make visits to Jerusalem and walk in Jesus' footsteps. The street Jesus walked is still called Via Dolorosa, the way of pain. People would stop along the way and remember what had happened to Jesus. It is likely that they marked the places for those who came after them to follow as well. These people became known as "pilgrims."
As Christianity spread throughout the know world, distance made it nearly impossible for people to make the trip to Jerusalem. That didn't stop their need to know and remember. By the twelfth century the fervor of the Crusades and a heightened devotion to the Passion of Jesus created a demand in Europe for representations of the last events in Jesus' life.
When the Franciscans took over the custody of the shrines in the Holy Land in 1342, they saw it as their mission to encourage devotion to these places. In western Europe a series of shrines erected to help the faithful remember Christ's passion became commonplace. They were erected outside Churches and monasteries and in other places as well. For many years there was a considerable variety in the number and title of these "stations." The current number of fourteen first appeared in the Low Countries in the sixteenth century and became standard in the eighteenth century with a series of papal pronouncements.
The chief promoter of this devotion was the Franciscan Leonard of Port Maurice [died 1751], who set up more than five hundred sets of stations, the best known being the one in the Coliseum of Rome. Modern liturgists have emphasized that devotion to the Passion is incomplete without reference to the Resurrection and have thus fostered the addition of a "fifteenth station," the Resurrection of Jesus.
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