The Stations of the Cross
The devotion known as the Stations of the Cross is a pilgrimage made in spirit along the Via Dolorosa, the Sorrowful Way. It was along this Way that Our Lord Jesus Christ carried his Cross from the Castle of Antonia, the Roman military headquarters in Jerusalem, to Calvary where he was crucified and then buried nearby. Each of the 14 Stations commemorates one of the incidents which, according to Christian tradition, occurred on that last sorrowful journey. To these a fifteenth has more recently been added – the Resurrection of Christ.
Christians began to visit the holy places in Jerusalem in the fourth century, after the great persecutions under the Emperors had ended and such pilgrimages at last became possible.
The first pilgrim to speak of treading “the way on which Christ walked carrying the Cross” was the preaching friar Ricoldus de Monte Crucis who visited Jerusalem in 1294 AD. Since then the devotion has spread throughout Christendom.
In Jerusalem itself the Franciscan Fathers every Friday conduct the devotion along the Via Dolorosa. Nine of the Stations are situated along the route, and the remainder within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Many churches have images of the Stations of the Cross along the walls and during the devotion people move together round the church stopping at each Station for reflection and prayer. However, the devotion is also suitable for use by individuals.