The Stations of the Cross

What are the fourteen stations, and from where are they derived?

There are normally fourteen stations, derived from the Gospel accounts of the Passion and from the Church’s Tradition. In early times, many versions existed, ranging from five stations to more than thirty, but fourteen appears to have been set on in the Low Countries some time in the sixteenth century, and set as the number when the Stations of the Cross was regulated by Pope Clement XII in 1731.

The fourteen stations are usually:

  1. Jesus is condemned to death
  2. Jesus takes up his Cross
  3. Jesus falls for the first time
  4. Jesus meets his afflicted mother
  5. The Cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene
  6. A woman (Veronica) wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls a second time
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
  9. Jesus falls for a third time
  10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
  11. Jesus is nailed to the Cross
  12. Jesus dies upon the Cross
  13. The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb

NB. In some churches, there is a fifteenth station, for the Resurrection, that is used particularly in Eastertide. In churches where there is no fifteenth station, the Altar is generally treated as the station of the Resurrection.

What is the Stations of the Cross
(also known as the Way of the Cross or Via Crucis)?

It is essentially a series of 14 numbered crosses around a church, often marked by images, pictures or carvings depicting incidents in Christ’s last journey from Pilate’s house to his entombment. Although the images or carvings that accompany the stations of the cross may be very elaborate, it is not the images that are important, but the sense of place and of movement – the Stations or Way of the Cross is a pilgrimage.

The Stations of the Cross, with its emphasis on the Passion and Death of Christ, is often a particularly Lenten devotion, but can and should be used all-year round. It originates in the great importance of Pilgrimage in the medieval era. First, from the practice of pilgrims to Jerusalem retracing the steps of Our Lord on his journey to the Cross, offering prayers at particular points along the way. It would have been, and still is, very powerful being at or near the very places where those final events in Our Lord’s life took place. Once home they wanted to carry on that devotion and so set up Stations in their churches at home.