The Way of the Cross in London
If you’re a keen art lover or a regular reader of this website, then you will know that 14 locations were used as a modern day Pilgrimage across the Capital, entitled ‘Stations of the Cross for a new Jerusalem’, which featured artworks to tell the story of The Passion in a new way for people of different faiths.
On the day he died, Jesus walked through the streets of Jerusalem – a journey traditionally commemorated by the Stations of the Cross in churches up and down the land. This unique exhibition—held in 14 locations across London during Lent—used works of art to tell the story of The Passion in a new way, for people of different faiths. In this pilgrimage, viewers were able to travel across London, mapping the Holy Land onto the streets of a ‘new Jerusalem.’
The Stations used religious and secular spaces displaying art from Old Master paintings to contemporary video installations. Artists included Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists. Instead of easy answers, the Stations aimed to provoke the passions: artistically, spiritually, and politically.
The Diocese took a lead, helping the curator Dr Aaron Rosen, Lecturer in Sacred Traditions and the Arts at King’s College London, to launch the exhibition which was attended by artists from the Capital Vision 2020 Creatives Network.
Throughout Lent, discussions about art in Christianity were held in churches where items were exhibited: from St Stephen’s Walbrook to The Chapel Royal of St Peter-ad-Vincula, HM Tower of London. Concerts took place in St Giles Cripplegate, and public discussions took place at King’s College London, with artist Terry Duffy.
On one afternoon, the Bishop of London was accompanied by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, to visit three works of art in the City of London.
Bishop Richard said:
“The Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ was a very public event. He was flogged and then taken along the busy city streets within the Walls of Jerusalem to be crucified and it is entirely appropriate these events be commemorated in a public way in the streets of our own global crossroads. Jesus Christ is for all times and for all places and I am grateful to Terry Duffy, Aaron Rosen and their colleagues for clothing the story in striking contemporary dress.”
Commenting before his pilgrimage with the Bishop, His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols of the Roman Catholic Church of England and Wales, said:
“For many centuries, the Passion of Jesus has inspired artists to some of their most outstanding work. I warmly welcome this innovative ‘Stations of the Cross’ project, bringing together Catholic, Anglican, and Methodist churches, as well as museums and public spaces around London, to enrich with new artistic endeavour our meditation on the redemptive suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The narrative of the Passion, embodied through these 14 impressive works of art, provides a powerful encouragement to think about not only the suffering of Jesus in this Lenten season, but the suffering of innocent people around the world. I pray that this exhibition will be a great success and wish to thank most sincerely the curators, artists, and institutions who have made it happen.”
Traditionally, at station thirteen the we focus on the last words of Jesus who cried out: ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ At St. Stephen’s Walbrook, the artwork by Michael Takeo Magruder was the Lamentation for the Forsaken (2016). Takeo offered a lamentation not only for the forsaken Christ but others who have felt his acute pain of abandonment. In particular, the memory of Syrians who have passed away in the present conflict, weaving their names and images into a contemporary Shroud of Turin. This provoked many harrowing thoughts, as the Ven Rosemary Lain-Priestly, Associate Archdeacon of London, noted in her twitter feed.
At Station Fourteen, Jesus is laid in the tomb, Temple Church became a location for Leni Diner Dothan’s Crude Ashes (2016). A former resident of Jerusalem, Dothan responds to the symbolism of Temple Church from an unabashedly personal perspective, as both an Israeli and a mother and an immigrant living in London. Some of her work on homelessness has led to interesting reactions as this tweet below shows.
Supporting the project, the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, said:
“These remarkable Stations of the Cross represent an iconic Lent pilgrimage across the landscape of contemporary London. They navigate a journey filled with modern meaning – dispossessed communities, fleeing refugees, displaced identities, and all who suffer injustice and oppression. This is visual art which melts the distinctions between sacred and secular, past and present, material and spiritual, offering up a liminal experience here on the streets of this culturally diverse capital city. Art and Christianity have a wonderful history, and I’m delighted to see this exhibition bring them together in such a creative way.”
More information and details about the Stations of the Cross is online for the foreseeable future with audio clips and films about wider project created by Coexist House. This ground breaking charity aims to transforming public understanding about the practices and perspectives of the world’s religions, promoting better, more peaceful, relationships across all divides.
Images provided by the Catholic Church of England and Wales.