Way of the Cross

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12th station of the cross - Jesus dies on the cross . Stations of the Cross at St. Raphael in Dubuque, Iowa.
12th station (crucifixion group) on the Calvary of Moresnet (Belgium)
Way of the Cross in the courtyard of the Maria Regina Martyrum Church (Berlin) by Otto Herbert Hajek

The Way of the Cross (Way of the Cross, Latin via crucis ; also processional ) is a pilgrimage route modeled on the Via Dolorosa ('road of pain') in Jerusalem , the Passion of Jesus Christ , as well as a devotional exercise of the Roman Catholic Church , in which the prayer follows the individual stations of this path.

The depiction of the individual stations of the cross , sometimes also called footsteps , because the prayers kneel down at each station, is usually done as a cycle of pictures, less often as a group of sculptures or - in the form of wayside shrines with pictures, sculptures or chapels - on a large scale as a calvary . Crossroads can be designed as open-air crossroads, usually on a slope, and ideally correspond to the situation in Jerusalem with regard to the location and distance of their stations.

Since the 18th century, every Roman Catholic church has also had a way of the cross.

Stations of the Cross

24. Station of the Cross in Maria Loreto near Eger

In Jerusalem there were only two stops on the Way of the Cross, the condemnation at the house of Pilate and the crucifixion at Golgotha . Little by little, further stations arose at which the biblical and traditional stations of Jesus on this path were remembered. In the 14th century, processions on the Passion of Christ took place in Jerusalem under the leadership of the Franciscans for pilgrims who brought this form of devotion to their home countries.

In general, the Franciscans had the greatest importance for the spread of the Way of the Cross as a representation as well as a folk devotion. Entrusted with the custody of the Holy Land since the 13th century , her piety is particularly tied to the meditation of suffering. Initially, indulgences through prayer on the Way of the Cross could only be acquired by Franciscans and members of their religious family. Benedict XIII. extended this privilege in 1726 to all believers praying on the Way of the Cross.

The most elaborate design is often the depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus as the 7th or 12th station of the cross - also known as the " crucifixion group " or "Golgotha ​​group". It shows the three crosses with Jesus and the thieves as well as Mary and John and sometimes other people under the cross of Jesus.

Seven stations

Station of the Way of the Cross at the St. Vitus Church (Wünschendorf)

Under the influence of Passions mysticism , linking the seven Tagzeiten the Divine Office of the Church of the Passion of Jesus and the seven Roman station churches was the Way of the Cross in the German language also divided into seven stations that the seven cases of Jesus or the seven gears of Jesus were called . From this developed the Seven Footfalls . The oldest ways of the cross in Germany can be found in Lübeck ( Lübeck Way of the Cross , completed in 1493), in Görlitz (Way of the Cross to the Holy Grave , consecrated in 1504), as well as in Nuremberg ( Nuremberg Way of the Cross to Johannisfriedhof with stations by Adam Kraft ) and in the Church of St. Marien to Homberg (Efze) ( seven stations of the cross ). As recently as 1718, seven path chapels were donated on the Kalvarienberg in Bad Tölz to represent the Seven Falls of Christ . Since 17./18. In the 19th century the Way of the Cross with 14 stations predominated. The Bamberg Way of the Cross from 1504 comprises nine stations.

Fourteen stations

Stations of the cross with fourteen illustrated stations have been built since around 1600. They showed the path of Jesus from the condemnation by Pontius Pilate to the crucifixion and burial . The 13th and 14th stations - Descent from the Cross and Entombment - were added in 1625 by the Spanish Franciscan A. Daza. As the 15th station, the respective church served as an image of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. This form goes back to the Franciscan Leonhard von Porto Maurizio . Pope Clement XII. recognized in 1731 with his breve instructions on the way in which one should hold the Way of the Cross, this form of the Way of the Cross recognized as canonical and granted indulgences . At many Franciscan monasteries, ways of the cross were built according to this model. In the last year of his life, Leonhard von Porto Maurizio built chapels with the fourteen Stations of the Cross in the arena of the Colosseum with papal permission , which established the tradition of the Way of the Cross at this place, which is still practiced today.

First station - Jesus is condemned to death , typical example of a Führich Way of the Cross in St. Georg in Bermatingen

The fourteen-part cycle of the Stations of the Cross was created towards the end of the 17th century as part of the furnishing of church rooms. Fourteen stations were marked on the walls with wooden crosses, under which there was mostly a pictorial or plastic representation of the respective stations of the cross. Although this way of the cross was initially limited to churches of the Franciscan order, because of the great popularity of this form of devotion, there was ultimately hardly a Catholic parish church without such a way of the cross. In the 19th century in particular, the fourteen-part cycle of the Stations of the Cross was very common within church rooms. Joseph von Führich and his students created the genre of the Führich crossroads in the Nazarene style , which is present in many churches in Central Europe and North America.

This tradition of the Stations of the Cross in church rooms continued in the 20th century, with not only inconspicuous images of the Stations of the Cross but also important works of art.

Occasionally other scenes than the traditional 14 (see below) are shown in the stations, such as Jesus' arrest, mockery, flogging or the coronation with a crown of thorns , but then, to leave it at 14 stations, only one fall under the cross .

The Way of the Cross, which leads to the pilgrimage church of Maria Loreto in Bohemia, near the city of Eger, includes twenty-seven stations of the cross.

Fifteen stations

In some baroque churches in southern Germany, especially in the diocese of Augsburg , the fifteenth station is the finding of the cross by Empress Helena . One example of this is the Way of the Cross in Gosheim from 1734, other examples can be found in Taiting and Dasing in the Diocese of Augsburg, in St. Nikolaus in Sirchenried and in the monastery church of Roggenburg Monastery (1752–1758).

Sometimes there is also a representation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (the empty tomb or the risen Christ) as the 15th station. For some time now there has also been the Via Lucis , modeled on the Way of the Cross , which is used to meditate on Easter events.

In the parish church of Mater Dolorosa in Berlin, the 15th station of the Way of the Cross by Hans Wachter shows the meeting of the two Emmaus disciples with Jesus.

Doloris mysteria

From the baroque period onwards, calvaries developed based on the five painful mysteries (doloris mysteria) of the rosary . One of these from the late 17th century can be found in Maria Plain near Salzburg. There is also a rosary path with fifteen stations from 1705.

Way of the Cross prayer

In the Catholic and Anglican Churches, devotion to the cross is a prayer often performed together or individually before the stations of the cross. The prayers also commemorate the suffering of the present who are unjustly condemned, tortured, killed, deprived of their livelihood or mocked. The devotion can be prayed at any time, especially on Fridays, during Lent and throughout Holy Week . According to the Catholic and Anglican view, the Way of the Cross is also suitable for personal meditation or devotions in the family. “To walk the way of the cross” is also a common expression for praying the Way of the Cross.

Stations of the Cross

station Surname Bible passages in which the stations are mentioned Other scriptures used in prayer
1 Jesus is sentenced to death Mt 27 : 22-23 : 26  EU : Pilate said to them: What should I then do with Jesus, who is called the Messiah? Then they all shouted: On the cross with him! He replied: What kind of crime has he committed? Then they shouted even louder: On the cross with him! He then released Barabbas and gave the order to scourge and crucify Jesus.

Cf. also Mk 15.1–15  EU ; Lk 23: 13-25  EU ; Joh 18.28  EU -19.16 EU .

2 Jesus takes the cross on his shoulders Mt 27 : 27–31  EU : There the soldiers of the governor took Jesus, led him into the praetorium , the governor's office building, and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a purple coat on him. Then they made a wreath of thorns; they put it on him and put a stick in his right hand. They fell on their knees before him and mocked him, shouting: Hail, King of the Jews! And they spat at him, took the stick away again and hit him on the head with it. After making fun of him in this way, they took off his coat and put his own clothes back on.

See. Also Mk 15.16 to 20  EU , Jn 19.16 to 17  EU .

3 Jesus falls under the cross for the first time Station is not mentioned in the Bible. Isa 53,4-6  EU
4th Jesus meets his mother Station is not mentioned in the Bible. Lk 2.34-35.51  EU
5 Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross Mt 27,32  EU : On the way they met a man from Cyrene named Simon; they made him carry the cross to Jesus.

Cf. also Mk 15.21  EU ; Lk 23.26  EU .

Mt 16.24  EU ; Mt 5.41  EU
6th Veronica gives Jesus the handkerchief Station is not mentioned in the Bible. Isa 53,2–3  EU ; Ps 27.8-9  EU
7th Jesus falls under the cross for the second time Station is not mentioned in the Bible. Klgl 3,1-2,9,16  EU
8th Jesus meets the weeping women Lk 23: 28–31  EU : Jesus turned to them and said: You women of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for you and your children! For days will come when one will say: good for the women who are sterile, who have not given birth or breastfed. Then they will say to the mountains: Fall on us! And to the hills: Cover us! Because if that happens to the green wood, what will become of the dry wood?
9 Jesus falls under the cross for the third time Station is not mentioned in the Bible. Klgl 3.27-32  EU
10 Jesus is stripped of his clothes Mt 27,33-36  EU : This is how they came to the place that is called Golgotha, which means the height of the skull. And they made him drink wine mixed with gall; but when he had tasted it, he would not drink it. After they crucified him, they cast lots and divided his clothes among themselves. Then they sat down and watched him.

Cf. also Mk 15.24  EU ; Lk 23.34  EU ; John 19 : 23-24  EU .

11 Jesus is nailed to the cross

Mt 27 : 37-42  EU : Above his head they had put a label stating his guilt: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left. The people who came by mocked him, shook their heads and shouted: You want to tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days? If you are the Son of God, help yourself and come down from the cross! The high priests , the scribes and the elders also mocked him and said: He has helped others, he cannot help himself. He's the King of Israel! Let him come down from the cross, then we will believe in him.

Cf. also Mk 15,22-27  EU ; Lk 23.33  EU ; Joh 19,18-19  EU

12 Jesus dies on the cross Mt 27.45–50.54  EU :

From the sixth to the ninth hour there was darkness across the land. At the ninth hour Jesus called out loudly: Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani? ', That means: My God, my God, why did you leave me? Some of those who stood by and heard said, He is calling for Elijah . Immediately one of them ran over, dipped a sponge in vinegar, put it on a stick, and gave Jesus a drink. But the others said: Leave it alone, let's see if Elijah comes and helps him. But Jesus cried out again aloud. Then he let out his ghost. When the centurion and the men who were guarding Jesus with him noticed the earthquake and saw what was happening, they were very frightened and said. Verily, that was God's Son!

Cf. also Mk 15,33-41  EU ; Lk 23.44-49  EU ; Jn 19.25-30  EU .

13 Jesus is removed from the cross and placed in his mother's lap Mt 27,57-59  EU : Towards evening a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph came ; he too was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate then ordered the body to be handed over to him. Joseph took it and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth.

Cf. also Mk 15.42-46  EU ; Lk 23.50-53  EU ; Joh 19.38  EU .

14th The holy body of Jesus is placed in the tomb Mt 27.60–61  EU : Then he laid him in a new grave that he had hewn into a rock for himself. He rolled a large stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and left. Also, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there; they sat across from the grave.

Cf. also Mk 15.46–47  EU ; Lk 23,53-56  EU ; Joh 19,39-42  EU .

15th a) Saint Helena with the holy cross
b) Resurrection of Jesus Christ
c) Disciples of Emmaus
a) legendary
b) Mk 16.1–8  EU , Mt 28.1–8  EU , Lk 24.1–12  EU , Joh 20.1–10  EU
c) Luke 24.13–35  EU

Pope Way of the Cross at the Colosseum

Way of the Cross 2007 in the Colosseum

Since 1964 Pope Paul VI. taken up an older model again. Since then there has been a Way of the Cross with the Pope at the Colosseum in Rome every year . The devotional form of the Way of the Cross (see above) came to Italy from Spain in the 1st half of the 17th century. One of the strongest apostles of the Way of the Cross was St. Franciscan Leonardo of Porto Maurizio († 1751) He himself built more than 572 Viae Crucis , including the famous fourteen stations in the Colosseum, which Pope Benedict XIV commissioned him to do at the end of Holy Year 1750. Benedict XIV declared the Colosseum a memorial for Christian martyrs of antiquity in 1750 .

From 1970 to 1978 Pope Paul VI led. the Way of the Cross to Biblical Texts (1970); on texts by Pope Leo the Great (1971); Saint Augustine (1972); Francis de Sales (1973); Ambrosius (1974); Paul from the Cross (1975); by Church Fathers (1976); the St. Theresa (1977) and St. Bernhard von Clairvaux (1978).

The first Way of the Cross, guided by John Paul II , was based on texts by Paul VI. accompanied (1979), 1980 with texts of the Benedictine Rule , 1981 with those of St. Catherine of Siena , 1982 of St. Bonaventure and 1983 with texts by Blessed Angela von Foligno .

At the end of the extraordinary Holy Year 1984, Pope John Paul II wrote the meditations for the individual stations himself. Since 1985, he has wanted various believers to shape the Way of the Cross. Every year several 10,000 believers take part in the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum. Pope Benedict XVI continued the tradition of his predecessor and presided over the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday as Pope at the celebrations in the Triduum Sacrum . In recent years a different person has been entrusted with writing the texts for the Way of the Cross every year. In some cases “modified” stations of the via crucis biblica were prayed, for example in 1991, 2007 and 2008. This was the case for the first time in the Holy Year 1975; In 2010 Cardinal Ruini (see below) commented on the traditional stations again.


New forms of the cross

Simon of Cyrene , Living Way of the Cross, Ulm , Good Friday 2011
Way of the Cross of the Christian Peace Conference (CFK) Thuringia April 1987

The processions in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt ( "Passione vivente" since 1979), the Bensheim Passion Play (own name Kreuzweg since 1983), designed by Italian immigrants based on southern Italian and Sicilian models and partly held in Italian, are new implementations of the Way of the Cross in German-speaking countries. , the Via Crucis in Saarlouis (since 2000), and the Lebendige Kreuzweg in Ulm and Neu-Ulm (since 2004).

Christian and Protestant church groups began to use the area of ​​the Buchenwald National Memorial near Weimar for social and peace education work at the beginning of the 1980s . The Thuringia working group of the Christian Peace Conference , together with the Protestant Martini community in Erfurt, invited to a “Way of the Cross for Peace”, in which the participants remembered individual groups of victims of the camp. The memorial stone to the “ Action Jews ” from 1938 was one of the stops along with other memorial sites for prisoners from different nations. In the “bunker” the fate of the Protestant pastor Paul Schneider and the Catholic priest Otto Neururer ( beatified by Pope John Paul II ) were remembered, and at the crematorium the prisoners murdered there, and others. a. to the prominent KPD chairman Ernst Thälmann . These crossways with Bible reading and prayer sometimes took place several times a year for a decade and a half.

The third ecumenical “Way of the Cross of Creation” made its way through Lower Saxony on Sunday Invocavit 2012. This way of the cross goes back to an initiative of the diocese of Hildesheim of the Catholic Church . He started at the Wietze poultry slaughterhouse . On Sunday Reminiscere, the Way of the Cross led from the Protestant Church in Remlingen to the Asse II nuclear waste storage facility . The third part of the Way of the Cross led from Salzgitter-Thiede via Asse to the Konrad mine on Sunday . The last station led from the loading crane for Castor containers in Dannenberg to the Catholic Church of St. Peter and Paul. A 4.50 meter high and 2.50 meter wide cross carried along during the Way of the Cross was set up at the other crosses after the Gorleben prayer .



Scientific representations
  • F. Dambeck: New ways of the cross since 1945 , in: Das Münster 7 (1954), 96–118.
  • Diane Dingeldein: The Bensheim Passion Play. Studies on an Italian-German cultural transfer. (Mainz contributions to cultural anthropology / folklore, vol. 7). Waxmann, Münster / New York / Munich / Berlin 2013. ISBN 978-3-8309-2919-2 ( Google books )
  • Notker Eckmann: Small story of the Way of the Cross: The motifs and their artistic representation (= world of faith in art. Vol. 6). Pustet, Regensburg 1968.
  • M. Hartig: The Way of the Cross as a piece of church furnishings once, now and in the future , in: Die christliche Kunst 32 (1935/36), 161-184
  • Karl Alois Kneller: History of the Stations of the Cross from the beginning to the complete formation (= supplementary booklets for the voices from Maria Laach. Booklet 98). Herder, Freiburg 1908.
  • E. Kramer: Way of the Cross and Calvary , Strasbourg 1957
  • Günter Saltin: Take us with you. The Way of the Cross. History, pictures, texts . Echter, Würzburg 1988, ISBN 3-429-01192-2 .
  • Heinz Schönewald: The Way of the Cross to the Ahrweiler Calvarienberg . Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler 2003.
  • Thomas Sternberg : "And let me see your picture". The Way of the Cross as a liturgical and artistic theme , in: Liturgisches Jahrbuch 53, 2003, pp. 166–191
  • Marco Talarico: The Way of the Cross of Jesus in historical authenticity and Catholic piety (= aesthetics - theology - liturgy . Volume 25). Lit, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-8258-6513-4 .
  • Amédée (Teetaert) da Zedelgem, Historical essay on devotion to the Way of the Cross , Amilcare Barbero and Pasquale Magro (eds.), Ponzano Monferrato 2004, in Italian.
  • Romano Guardini : The Way of the Cross of our Lord and Savior. Meditations. Mainz 1939.
  • Joseph Ratzinger : Our Lord's Way of the Cross. Meditations. Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 2006, ISBN 3-451-28893-1 .
  • Conrad-Peter Joist, Willi Hoffsümmer , Clemens Wilken: hands speak of the Way of the Cross . Paulinus, Trier 1996, ISBN 3-7902-0092-1 .
  • Tisa von der Schulenburg : The Way of the Cross. Drawings by Tisa Schulenburg, texts by Werner Grave, Recklinghausen
  • Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albás : The Way of the Cross. Adamas-Verlag, Cologne 1982.
  • Johannes Pinsk : Mysterium crucis. The saving suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. Reflections on the 14 Stations of the Cross. With original woodcuts by Hildegard Domizlaff . Patmos, Düsseldorf 1952.
  • Herbert Holzheimer: Way of the Cross - Stations of a Life. Echter Verlag, Würzburg 2010.
  • Willi Oberheiden: When someone has gone his own way. Meditations on the Way of the Cross. Real publishing house, Würzburg 2009.
  • Günter Kirchner: Becoming sustainable. A way of the cross. Real publishing house, Würzburg 2003.
  • Friedhelm Hofmann : To love away the suffering of the world. Reflections on the Way of the Cross in the Würzburg bishop's house. Real publishing house, Würzburg 2009.
  • Joachim Cardinal Meisner : Way of the Cross (=  praying today . No. 18 ). 2nd Edition. Einsiedeln 2009.
  • Carlo Maria Martini : Via Crucis. Meditations on the Way of the Cross of the Lord, Leipzig 2012.
  • Dominik Schwaderlapp : The way of the Lord from Pilatus to Golgota, Cologne 2011.
  • Georg Dietlein: Under the secret of the cross. Reflections on the Way of the Cross. Pneuma Verlag, Munich 2014.

Web links

Commons : Way of the Cross  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Way of the Cross  - Sources and full texts
Wiktionary: Way of the Cross  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Actually Aramaic אֵלִי אֵלִי לְמָה שְׁבַקְתָּנִי 'eli,' eli, lama schewaktani or ܐܹܝܠ ܐܹܝܠ ܠܡܵܢܵܐ ܫܒܲܩܬܵܢܝ 'il' il, lmana schwaktan , My God, my God, why have you forsaken me ', in the Koine transferred ελωι ελωι λαμμα σαβαχθανι eloi eloi lamma sabachthani or ηλι ηλι λαμα σαβαχθανι eli eli lama sabachthani .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Congregatio indulgentiarum et sacrarum reliquiarum ( Congregation for Indulgences and Holy Relics ), April 3, 1731; see: Rudolf Huber (Hrsg.): Church tools, crosses and reliquaries of the Christian churches. (= Glossarium Artis. Volume 2). KG Saur Verlag, 3rd edition, Munich, London, New York-Paris 1991, ISBN 3-598-11079-0 , p. 164.
  2. ^ E. Kramer (1957), p. 89.
  3. ^ Rudolf Huber (Ed.): Church implements, crosses and reliquaries of the Christian churches. (= Glossarium Artis. Volume 2). KG Saur Verlag, 3rd edition, Munich-London-New York-Paris 1991, ISBN 3-598-11079-0 , p. 165.
  4. a b See Sternberg 2003, pp. 174f., 179-190
  5. See Bühren 2008, p. 67f.
  6. See Bühren 2008, pp. 60, 67-69, 132, 154, 168, 182f., 201, 286, 299, 318, 386f., 559, 604, 607, 612, 616, 618
  7. See also Anton Hungari (ed.): Osterglöcklein. Uplifting conversations for the Easter festival group in the Catholic church years. JD Sauerländer, Frankfurt am Main 1862, pp. 330–369 (Jesus on the Way of the Cross) ; here: pp. 365–369 (XV. station: Saint Helena with the holy cross) .
  8. Kulturwanderungen.de: The walk on the Kalvarienberg in Gosheim , (PDF 200KB), accessed on August 8, 2008
  9. ^ Passion cycle by the Wolfach painter Josef Moser (1783–1865). Museum Schloss Wolfach, inventory number 1988/0010.
  10. The Holy See : Bureau for liturgical celebrations with the Holy Father: Via Crucis
  11. Dingeldein 2013, pp. 182–190.
  12. ^ Way of the Cross of Creation on the side of the Diocese of Hildesheim ( Memento from October 19, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  13. Evangelische Zeitung, March 4, 2012, p. 13.