The Stations of the Cross depict the following scenes:
- Jesus is condemned to death
- Jesus carries His cross
- Jesus falls for the first time
- Jesus meets His mother, Mary
- Simon helps Jesus carry the cross
- Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
- Jesus falls for the second time
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
- Jesus falls for the third time
- Jesus is stripped of His clothes
- Jesus is nailed to the cross
- Jesus dies on the cross
- Jesus is taken down from the cross
- Jesus is placed in the tomb
We introduce you to some of the people thought to be involved in Jesus’ crucifixion, who each feature in the Stations of the Cross.
Curiously, the name Barabbas means “father’s son”.
According to the four Holy Gospels, Barabbas was a Jew, possibly a member of the Zealots, who was held captive by the Romans in Jerusalem together with other rebels, during Jesus’ passion.
But who was Barabbas really?
In all the films about Jesus, the figure of Barabbas is identified as an unscrupulous patriot, trying to bring down the Roman government in Jerusalem.
In his evocative novel Barabbas (1951), Nobel Prize winner for literature Par Lagerkvist describes him as “a man who is about thirty years old, of solid build […] but of sallow complexion with a red beard and black hair…”.
Giulio Firpo, professor of Roman history at Chieti University writes: “The thief was most likely a partisan who fought against Roman authority.”
In the gospels, Barabbas appears in the story of Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate.
The Roman prefect, not finding justification for the claims made by the accuser, wanted to free Jesus.
Barabbas, instead, would have had every reason to be condemned.
But when Pilate calls upon the crowd to decide who to release, they choose Barabbas.
Little is known about the Roman politician, Pontius Pilate.
It is known that he was appointed as prefect of Judaea by the Emperor Tiberius and that a passage by the historian Tacitus refers to Pilate as the one who condemned Jesus to his death.
In 1961, thanks to a random discovery at the Caesarea Maritima amphitheatre in Israel, a plaque was found with an inscription that proved what is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures.
While there are numerous places that claim the birthplace of Pilate, there is little doubt that the name Pontius is typically Samnite.
It is likely that Pilate was born in Bisenti, in the central Italian region of Abruzzo.
History describes him as a grumpy, obstinate, corrupt and violent man who subverted the justice system for money.
Pilate did not have children but he was very close to his wife Claudia Procula, a well-educated woman belonging to one of the most illustrious Roman families, and granddaughter of Augustus.
In the most credible accounts of history, Pilate seemed reluctant to condemn Jesus, who he considered only an idealist.
But he was eventually forced to give in when the crowd became unruly and the Jewish leaders reminded him that Jesus’ claim to be king was a challenge to Roman rule and to the Roman deification of Caesar.
Absolute uncertainty reigns over the last years of Pilate’s life.
Some believe he was executed by the Emperor Caligula, while others suggest he was exiled to Gaul where he committed suicide.
Simon of Cyrene
According to three of the four Gospels, Simon of Cyrene was the man compelled by the Romans to carry the cross of Jesus of Nazareth as Jesus was taken to his crucifixion.
He is mentioned in the Fifth Station.
For many, he is considered a disciple, and for others, a symbol of help in suffering.
In the Gospels, he is mentioned very little.
We know that he was from Cyrene, which is located in modern eastern Libya.
In 1941, a discovery cast “true light on the historicity” of the Gospels.
In the Kidron Valley, near Jerusalem, a chamber excavated in the rock was discovered, containing, along with other ruins, 10 ossuaries dating back to the first century AD.
Archaeologists were unanimously convinced that two of these ossuaries can be traced back to the family of Simon of Cyrene.
In one, the name “Alexander of Cyrene, son of Simon” is quoted.
Considering that Cyrene is very far from Jerusalem, and that Alexander was not a widespread name in the Jewish community at the time, scholars believe it is plausible that the ossuary actually houses the remains of the Cyrene family.
In another ossuary the name “Sara” is mentioned.
Therefore, it is likely that Simon also had a daughter.
In the Seventh Station, Veronica wipes Jesus’ face.
In seeing Jesus carry the cross, with a bloody face due to the crown of thorns, Veronica dried it with a linen cloth on which the image of the Lord would remain.
This relic is known as The Veil of Veronica.
But who was Veronica?
There is little trace of Veronica in the Gospels, nor any confirmation of her existence in any historical documents.
The closest thing is the miracle of the woman who was cured of a chronic haemorrhage when she touched the hem of Jesus’ tunic.
The woman is later identified as Veronica in an apocryphal writing of the New Testament, dating back to the fourth century AD.
The connection to the Stations of the Cross and the miraculous appearance of Jesus’ face was made around 1380.
Here, Veronica is named in the group of “pious women” who, with Mary, followed Jesus in his ascent to Calvary.