History of the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum

In 2022, the Vatican announced that two years after the suspension due to the pandemic, the Pope would once again preside the celebration of the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome. This devotion has been celebrated in Piazza San Pietro both in 2020 and 2021 and in a very limited way.

Maria José Atienza-April 20, 2022-Reading time: 2 minutes
via crucis coliseum

Testo originale del articolo in inglese qui
Traduzione: Lino Bertuzzi

The tradition of the Via Crucis in Rome has its roots in the twentieth century, when a group of faithful began to gather around the French missionary Leonardo da Porto Maurizio in the convent of San Bonaventura, on the Palatine Hill, on the first Sunday of the morning, to pray the Way of the Cross.

This priest was one of the great promoters of the devotion to the Way of the Cross, due to the fervor that this practice of piety aroused in those who practiced it. To this French missionary, in fact, is attributed the creation of more than half a thousand Stations of the Cross in Italy alone. Leonardo da Porto asked Pope Benedict XIV the permission to form a confraternity and to organize the Way of the Cross in the Flavian Amphitheater to unite to these preachers a series of meditations on the Passion of Jesus. The Pope accepted and entrusted the creation of the association to Cardinal Vicar Giovanni Antonio Guadagni. In the meantime, the Pope ordered the restoration of the four churches that were already around the arena. 

The authorization was granted on December 13, 1749 and, after a few months, work began on the construction of the four Stations of the Cross inside the Colosseum. 

The Colosseum was a place of veneration since the V century, inside of which the Chapel of the Pieta was erected in the XV century. Indeed, in previous decades, the Colosseum had hosted sacred representations, and Pope Clement X had consecrated it to the memory of the Passion. However, when Leonardo's request from Porto Maurizio arrived, the monument had long been in disuse and in rather deplorable conditions.

The new Archconfraternity of the Lovers of Jesus and Mary on Calvary was erected on December 17, 1750, and ten days later, the buildings and the cross of the Colosseum were blessed. Since then the Archconfraternity has followed the rite of the Way of the Cross every Friday and Sunday, on various anniversaries and during Holy Week, along the Via Sacra to the Flavian Amphitheater. For about 100 years, the practice of the Via Crucis in the Colosseum has had a large participation of faithful, but it declined when the cross was removed in 1874 because of the renovation of buildings in the area below.

In 1926 the cross was later returned to the circus floor. The great Cross of the Archconfraternity of the Lovers of Jesus and Mary of Calvary has been in the church of San Gregorio Magno dei Muratori since 1937. In 1959 St. John XXIII restored the rite of the Via Crucis in the Colosseum, and shortly after St. Paul VI had repeated this ancient exercise. Since then, the successive Popes have publicly preached this Way of the Cross on the path of the Holy Venerdì together with hundreds of faithful who, every year, remember and meditate the passion of the Signore together with the ancient and modern sophistications of the Umanità on the amphitheater's sands.

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