Southwell Minster had a set of “Stations of the Cross”; so does Lincoln (they are on the north wall of the Nave – you can see them in the photo above). “Please touch” says the sign – so, once again, photography can only go so far. I purchased the book (“The Forest Stations, William Fairbank, Frontier Publishing, 1998) from the Cathedral shop. Fairbank was involved in a car accident in 1987 in which he received a brain injury. He spent several years recovering, using sculpture to help him – and has gone on to do much more. More details here. A wonderful set of Stations.
I would like to quote from the Introduction. He wrote:
“For me the attraction of the Stations of the Cross lies in the timeless nature of the subject. However, these are a present day set of stations, built in a time of environmental crisis with the world population set to double in the next thirty years. From a timber perspective, if we wish to hand on fine timbers to our children and beyond, we must nurture an understanding and an appreciation of the value of trees, both while they are living and after they have been milled. The fact that we have to plant a tree today for it to become workable timber in 50 or 100 years time is becoming a harder and harder idea to grasp as we head into the new millennium. … I invite you to view these sculptures with as open a mind as possible. I was drawn to this subject because the Stations of the Cross have always been about personal devotion and this means that each of our own views is unique, relevant and valid.”
1 – Jesus, a man of truth, is condemned to death by the crowd through their government.
Fairbank comments that it is the government condemning the man of truth to death. Nowadays we elect the government, so we would be responsible. Pilate was a dictator, but the people made him change his mind. The crowd then, and the crowd today, are the people who make the decisions. “That crowd includes you and that crowd includes me.” The main wood is Sweet Chestnut, and there’s about twenty other different woods – the book contains a complete list. Here’s a closer view:
2 – The truth is beaten and flogged and roped to the execution beam.
There is an energy and a force. The push of the people has pushed the government. “With every lash a cheer goes up.” Even those people who do not agree, who try and find a place at the back of the crowd – they are still part of it.
3 – He falls under pressure from without.
“You push. He falls. You are directly and solely responsible.” Traditionally soldiers with spears appear in this statement. Soldiers comes from our community, are paid for my our taxes, and governed by our government. We are responsible.
4 – He is helped by his mother.
A moment of supreme compassion. His mother is there. “Their eyes meet, they are one, their hands hold and energy flows.” The supreme man, the supreme woman. To many Mary represents Mother Earth.
5 – He is helped by Simon of Cyrene.
“Here is a friend of Jesus. They [the soldiers] could see it in Simon’s eyes. Come on then, help your friend, you help him with the weight of that beam of wood. … The essential sympathy of Simon speaks to us all as we relate to each other and as we relate to nature in its extraordinary diversity.” I’m not sure if Simon of Cyrene was a friend – just a man in the crowd. However Mark (15.21) mentions he was the father of Alexander and Rufus – so a friendship, even if it started at that moment of picking up the cross, continued to the next generation.
6 – He is helped by Veronica , who wipes his face.
“The stranger approaches. She is young and surrounded by an aura of compassion. Vero means true and Icon means likeness. … The true likeness, the likeness left on the cloth. The face of the essential truth that is in all of us.”
7 – He falls for the second time under pressure from within.
8 – Jesus turning said “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me but weep for yourselves and for your children. A day is coming when they will say, blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never gave suck. Then they will begin to say to the mountains ‘fall on us’ and hills ‘cover us’. If they do these things when the tree is green then what will happen when the tree is brown?”
10 – We strip him of his clothes.
“A moment alone. A moment between torture in life and torture of dying by crucifixion.”
11 – Jesus is held down by the crowd as the tools of government drive in the nails.
“It may be by the government. It may be by their forces. … We employ the government. The government employs the force. The force drives in the nails.”
What got me about this one was the smallness of Christ. One tiny man on a huge backdrop.
13 – The body of Jesus is held by his mother.
“She felt the fact. She was the fact. She held his body in his arms. The mother gives. The earth receives the body back unto herself.”
14 – He is enclosed into his tomb.
“It appears that the body grows smaller and smaller, changes and disappears. See it. Smell it. Hear it. Sense it.”
15 – ILLUMINATION. Awareness, enlightenment, insight, inspiration, understanding.