This devotion originated in the 4th century as pilgrims flooded into the Holy Lands to experience the land of Jesus. In 335 A.D., Emperor Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher atop Calvary and the tomb of Jesus. On Holy Thursday pilgrims processed from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The trail, which was the supposed walk of Jesus, came to be known as Via Dolorosa, the Sorrowful Way. The devotions of the 14 stations evolved as the pilgrims stopped along the way to honor specific incidents that took place on Jesus’ way to Calvary and meditate upon them.
The Muslim conquest in the 7th century and the destruction of Jerusalem lead to the rapid spread of the devotion throughout Europe. Travel to Jerusalem was not safe for Christians, so they recreated the pilgrimage in their own lands.
By the 18th century the Stations of the Cross had become a devotional standard in prayer books and on missions and retreats. Originally the stations had been erected outside, but by late 18th century most churches had created them indoors. Today some churches have both.
The purpose of the Stations of the Cross, as with all devotions, is to strengthen faith by making Christ’s Passion our daily walk.
It’s been my tradition during Lent to feature the stations on my blog in the context of our modern day life as writers and readers. I hope my readers will enjoy a prayerful few minutes with me and will receive grace from sharing the devotion.