.- Anyone making their way along Rome's Via della Conciliazione toward St. Peter's Basilica this Lent will be greeted by the world’s largest bronze representation of the stations of the cross.
A total of 49 statues and 11 crosses form the 14 scenes that depict Christ's condemnation to death, the carrying of the cross, his crucifixion, death and burial. The life-size figures were installed for a first-ever viewing on one side of the arrow-straight lane running from Castel Sant'Angelo to St. Peter's.
The Italian company Domus Dei, owned and managed by the Congregation of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master, produced the representations. Before the sisters took over the company in 2007, the operation had more than 40 years of experience in Church-related design and art.
Besides bronze, they work in stained glass, mosaic and fiber glass mediums. Their projects encompass new church planning, refurbishing and restoration.
Many of the artisans in the various workshops are lay people with a specific expertise, but some sisters work in production and run the operation.
Domus Dei public relations director, Rosa Scannella, told CNA that - just as in all their work - the disciple sisters wished to “transmit their faith” through the pieces of art.
The striking stations that now line the road leading to Catholicism's most famous church took five years of work and 10 tons of bronze to complete. According to Pasquale Nava and Giuseppe Allamprese—the artists who designed the statues—the depictions are as true as possible to the Gospel accounts of the Way of the Cross.
Scannella explained that there are Ways of the Cross in existence that have larger figures, but none has ever been made so large in bronze. The larger figures that stand on the hill at the Lourdes Shrine in France, for example, are made out of iron.
The bronze figures were made for the city of Coquimbo, Chile, which will be their destination after their Lenten exhibition in Rome comes to a close on April 27. The city commissioned the works to lead up to a famous hilltop cross in a poor neighborhood in town.
Several events have been scheduled around the statues before they are sent off to Chile. On April 1, Cardinal Angelo Comastri will lead the Way of the Cross, and on Easter Sunday, April 24, a sacred music concert will be held nearby.
Although the stations were officially unveiled on March 13, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis of the prefecture for the economic affairs of the Holy See blessed the statues and the artists at a presentation several days earlier.
Cardinal De Paolis spoke about the mystery of the cross and said, "There, where we no longer understand the sense of the cross, we lose the sense of our lives," he said in a Vatican Radio report. "From the cross of the Lord, we have learned to love, we learned a very difficult, almost impossible thing: we learned to love those who suffer."