Tradition of building Ways of the Cross

Tradition of building Ways of the Cross
One of the most important symbols of Christianity is the Way of the Cross, which Jesus Christ had to walk before being crucified. In Catholicism the Way of the Cross is depicted during Holy Week to remind of the Passion of Christ and the fact that Son of God sacrificed his life to save the humanity.

The name ‘Way of the Cross’ is used for part of the Rosary, public prayer, depiction of Stations of the Cross (for example small chapels showing the final hours of Jesus) or passion play. Especially the three latter ones are popular in Poland during Holy Week.

Stations of the Cross tradition arose in Jerusalem. Afterwards – in Middle Ages - it has been popularized in Europe by Franciscan monks who would lead the pilgrims along the Stations that would show the death of Jesus Christ. In XVII century it was agreed that the Stations of the Cross would consist of 14 parts. In Catholic churches the Stations would be depicted with paintings or sculptures situated along the side walls. The following stations are: 1.Jesus is condemned to death, 2.Jesus is given his cross, 3.Jesus falls the first time, 4.Jesus meets His Mother, 5.Simon of Cyrene carries the cross, 6.Veronica wipes the face of Jesus, 7.Jesus falls the second time, 8.Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem, 9.Jesus falls the third time, 10.Jesus is stripped of His garments, 11.Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross, 12.Jesus dies on the cross, 13.Jesus' body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation), 14.Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense. In some of the places the Stations are depicted by separate chapels situated outside of the church – like for example in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska (Calvary of Zebrzydowice).

As not everybody could visit Jerusalem to see the actual place of Passion of Christ (especially due to the fact that in 15th century it was taken over by the Muslims), the Catholics would build so called ‘calvaries’ that would depict the topography of Jerusalem. The chapels, like the ones in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, enable to organize the passion play. In Zebrzydowice this tradition takes place each year since 1608. Other places in Poland, where similar custom takes place, are Calvary in Paclaw, Gorka Klasztorna and Poznan. But Calvary in Zebrzydowice is the most popular among all of them. The Sanctuary consists of basilica and monastery situated in the south of the city – nearby Zar Hill. On the top of the hill there are 42 chapels and small churches, depicting the ‘final way of Christ’ (that is ‘the Way of Capture’ and ‘the Way of Passion’). It is very often called ‘Polish Jerusalem’.

While local churches are visited for public prayers along the Stations of Cross, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska organizes each year Passion Play that takes place on Good Friday. The pilgrims gather in Kalwaria while actors play certain characters described in the Bible. The whole play helps the pilgrims to go through the Passion of Jesus Christ once again.

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