Stations of the Cross
After the times of persecution, when it became safe for Christians to travel, many believers visited the places in the Holy Land where Jesus lived, died and rose again. The climax of such pilgrimages would be in Jerusalem where a procession would tread the Way of the Cross (often carrying great cross-timbers), and would relive in imagination the events of the first Good Friday. The procession would pause at intervals (to ‘make station’) and remember, with prayer and thanksgiving, repentance and re-commitment, the various incidents of that day.
Many people, of course, could not make this journey, and in later times the custom arose of re-enacting such a pilgrimage, either on one’s own or in a group, before a series of representations of the key moments of the story of the Passion of Christ. This was especially done in churches during Lent and Holy Week, and was as valuable an aid to devotion as the great Passion Plays and music. In many ways it was particularly ‘a people’s devotion’.
In more recent centuries, the series of representations has crystallised into a scheme of fourteen pictures. Nearly all of the subjects are based on the Gospel text, but a few are inferred, and one is a pious fiction who value is symbolic rather than historical. In recent years, a fifteenth ‘station’ has often been included, as here in Emery Down, to complete the story of the pain of Good Friday with the glorious victory of Easter.