The Stations of the Cross at St Faith's

The fourteen embroidered Stations of the Cross,  are displayed during Lent at different locations on walls and pillars around St Faith's. They begin with two hangings on the wall of the Lady Chapel, then down the south wall nave pillars, and  back up the north nave pillars, to end with the final panels on the walls of the Chapel of the Cross. From Easter to the beginning of Lent, they are grouped in the Chapel of the Cross. They are the work of members of our congregation, working to the design of Sister Anthony of the Metropolitan Cathedral, who is also responsible for another fine piece of embroidery displayed in the Church, the new banner of Saint Faith.

The stations are a focus of worship during Lent and Passiontide. Follow this link for the illustrated text of one of the settings previously used during this season.

The history of the Stations of the Cross
(also known as the Way of the Cross, the Via Crucis and the Via Dolorosa).

The history of the Stations of the Cross is somewhat confused as is the actual number, although this has now settled on fourteen. The object of the Stations is to help people make, in spirit, a pilgrimage to the main scenes of Christ's sufferings and death. Although chapels, intended to represent the important shrines in Jerusalem, were constructed as early as the 5th century there is no evidence that they were intended in any way to follow any Way of the Cross. The reports of pilgrims of the 14th century mention a sacred route around the shrines but they do not identify any Via Crucis as it is now understood. The earliest mention of Stations of the Cross occurs in the narrative of the English pilgrim, William Wey, who visited Jerusalem in 1458 and again in 1462; he mentions that it was usual for pilgrims to follow in the footsteps of Christ but from Calvary to the house of Pilate. By the 16th century the accepted route had been reversed to that we know today.

During the 15th century a number of pilgrims returning to their homes took steps to establish a set of the Stations by painted or carved scenes located in monasteries and convents. Stations were constructed in the Dominican friary at Cordova, the Poor Clare convent in Messina and in Nuremburg. Shortly afterwards others imitated these Stations and sites were located at Fribourg, Louvain and Rhodes. Over the years many more imitative sites were constructed but there appears to have been no agreement on the number of Stations. Wey, in his 15th century account, mentions 14 sites in Jerusalem but only 5 correspond with current Stations and 7 are only remotely connected with the Way of the Cross accepted today. These were, the house of Dives, the city gate through which Christ passed, the probatic pool, the Ecce Homo arch, the Blessed Virgin's school and the houses of Herod and Simon the Pharisee.

 During the 16th century manuals of devotion produced for those visiting Jerusalem variously mention 19, 25 and 37 stations. A book (Jerusalem sicut Christi tempore floruit) published in 1584, mentions 12 Stations and these correspond to the first 12 of the modern Stations. After Jerusalem came under Turkish control pilgrimages to the Holy places were more difficult and the devotional ritual practised at the imitative Stations in places throughout Europe became established; it is reasonable to presume that the current practice follows European ritual, rather than that which was practised by pilgrims in Jerusalem during the 15th and 16th centuries.

 Medieval accounts of pilgrimages make no mention of the second Station (Christ receiving the cross) or the tenth (Christ being stripped of His garments); one Station mentioned in almost all early accounts but not in the present Stations is the Ecce Homo arch. One of the earliest imitative Stations indicates that Christ had nine Falls, but only three are currently included: the 3rd, 7th and 9th; an explanation for the other four is that they correspond with four other incidents, His meeting with His Mother, Simon of Cyrene, His face wiped by Veronica and His meeting with the women of Jerusalem. The fact that nothing of note happened at the location of the other three falls means that they are retained. There is also confusion as to the timing of certain events: some have placed Simon of Cyrene and the women of Jerusalem at the same time whilst the Veronica incident, is considered by some to have occurred just before Christ's arrival at Calvary.

 The Stations of the Cross in St Faith's provide a powerful and moving focus for devotion in Lent and Passiontide. Their complex evolution is perhaps of little significance: it is the message which is important.

No 1
Christ is condemned to die

No 2
The cross is laid on Christ
No 3
Christ`s first fall
No 4
Christ meets His Blessed Mother
No 5
Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross
No 6
Christ`s face is wiped by Veronica
No 7
Christ`s Second Fall
No 8
Christ meets the Women of Jerusalem
No 9
Christ`s Third Fall
No 10
Christ is stripped of His Garments
No 11
Christ`s crucifixion
No 12
Christ`s death on the cross

No 13
Christ`s body is taken down from the cross
No 14
Christ is laid in the tomb


Click here for Everyman's Way of the Cross  (Holy Week 2007 and 2008)

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