The Stations, or Way of the Cross, is one of the most identifiable devotional practices in Catholicism and can be traced back to early Christian pilgrims who would visit various sites in Jerusalem to reflect on Jesus Christ’s suffering and death.
Over the years, there have been many artistic variations of the Stations of the Cross, with some of the most beautiful located here in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Earlier in Lent, Melbourne Catholic shared Part I of this timeless devotion, exploring the unique history and artistry of the Stations of the Cross. As we draw closer to Good Friday, we re-visit this time-honoured tradition and share more versions of the Stations from churches across the Archdiocese.
The stained glass Stations of the Cross at St Gerard’s in Dandenong North were believed to have been part of the original church building when it was opened in 1969. They were created by Dutch-born parishioner Martin Pater who, during World War II, had helped restore damaged stained glass windows of churches back in his homeland. In May 1989, the stained glass windows were removed for alterations and re-designed by Pater’s son, Peter, to reduce the amount of sunlight entering the church to create a ‘more traditional feel’.
The Stations of the Cross we see at St Francis' Church today was one of many improvements made at St Francis’ Church between 1895 and 1926. These improvements were led by Fr William Quilter, who was the diocesan administrator of the parish during that time. In April 1897, Fr Quilter commissioned a European artist to paint the fourteen stations. Unfortunately, the name of the artist is not known. The depictions of Jesus' passion and death were based on a widely acclaimed set of Stations of the Cross located in the Antwerp Cathedral, Belgium.
When the stations arrived in Melbourne in late 1898, the Advocate newspaper described them as ‘magnificent’. In the absence of Archbishop Thomas Carr (who was overseas at the time), the stations were blessed by the pioneer Redemptorist Fr Thomas O’Farrell C.Ss.R. after the 11am Mass on Sunday 26 February 1899. Afterwards, the large congregation present prayed the Stations of the Cross. Fr Quilter’s Stations of the Cross have hung in Melbourne’s St Francis' Church for over 120 years. In May 1996, five of the paintings were damaged in a vandalism attack on the church. Fortunately, all of the works were able to be restored, and after restoration two of the stations which had previously been hung under the southern gallery were relocated to the transepts.
Melbourne’s ecumenical walk through the streets of the city is traditionally held on Good Friday and was the result of a collaboration between clergy from Melbourne’s inner city churches (known as Melbourne City Churches in Action or MCCIA). The walk consists of a series of fourteen bronze sculptures located outside a number of Melbourne’s historic churches, with each sculpture depicting Jesus' journey to the cross and his resurrection. Two of the sculptures can be found within the grounds of St Patrick’s Cathedral and another two at St Francis’ Church. At St Francis' Church, the first station (The Last Supper) is located inside the Lonsdale Street fence, east of the main gates. The second station (The Garden of Gethsemane) is at the rear of St Francis' Church, facing the footpath near the corner of Elizabeth and Little Lonsdale Streets.
The first walk was held in 2000 and in recent years the walks have attracted over 3,000 people coming together for worship, song and to bear witness to their faith in the city of Melbourne. Unfortunately, the walk will not be held in 2021 but you are encouraged to do the walk in your own time as a private meditation, using the liturgy and map of the route available on the Melbourne City Churches In Action website.
The original Stations of the Cross at St Brigid's Church in Fitzory North were believed to have been written in the mid-late 1800s (oil canvas). They have been a part of St Brigid’s since the blessing and opening of the church by Archbishop James Alipius Goold on 12 October 1873. The stations were recently restored and are now protected by glass.
Written and donated by the late John Perrett, a parishioner of over twenty years, the Stations of the Cross at St Mark’s Church are not only comprised of the traditional fourteen stations, but include a symbol of the Resurrection, which illustrates the Trinity and a broken spear symbolising death's defeat. John’s talents can also be seen throughout the church, and Parish Priest Fr Savino Bernardi CS describes his style as a ‘self-taught way of artist expression.’
Pray the Way of the Cross using this multimedia resource which incorporates images of the Stations of the Cross by Leopoldine Mimovich, located at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Deepdene. The resource uses Scripture, music and points for reflection and can be viewed online or downloaded for use in an online prayer forum (such as Zoom).
We'd like to feature more Stations of the Cross artworks from parishes around Melbourne. Please send us photos and some background information about your parish's stations – we'd love to hear from you.