Devotional life at First Church has been greatly enriched by the splendid Stations of the Cross, which have been in use since early Lent, 2002. A popular form of devotion with a long history in the Church, the Stations commemorate Christ’s passion, death and burial. They are prayed especially during the Lenten season. The Stations’ accessible location in the passageway around the perimeter of the nave, away from the busy chancel area, makes them suited for both corporate and private devotions not only during Lent, but at any time of the year. At First Church, the progression extends from the baptismal font to the Lamb of God Oratory, symbolizing the faithful pilgrim’s journey with Christ from birth to new life. In the oratory stands the columbarium, proclaiming its message of eternal life.
The Stations of the Cross are narrative images that depict events of Christ’s final earthly days–his sufferings set in motion at the Last Supper, his death on the cross, and his burial. Customarily, they are arranged in chronological order around the interior walls of a church. In following the Way of the Cross, as the Stations are also called, devout Christians make a symbolic pilgrimage. Stops are made at each successive Station along the route for a devotion appropriate to the incident commemorated. Devotions are always made standing. The Stations at First Church are the fourteen traditional Stations of the Cross, which have been in use in the Church since the eighteenth century. Variations in appearance and number characterized earlier Stations, but by this time, they were systematized into the present series of fourteen. Pictorial representation was employed to illustrate the Stations visually and heighten the narrative. Realistic and often gory images were produced in painting, sculpture relief and free-standing sculpture to illustrate Christ’s passion, death and burial. First Church’s Stations of the Cross are traditional in content, format and appearance, and are similar to sets that appeared first on the walls of Roman Catholic churches in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The Stations are executed in bronze sculpture relief and are realistic in their depiction of the narrative scenes. Relief height varies greatly in each of the 9″ x 9″ panels, producing an impression of depth and drama that is unexpected in works of such compact size. This effect is enhanced by the close cropping of each scene; Christ, his Cross, and human figures fill the picture plane and seem to protrude into the viewer’s space. The exceptional Stations were made by the design studio Granda Liturgical Arts, Inc. which has its workshop in Madrid, Spain. Granda has been designing and fabricating ecclesiastical art since 1891. A total of three sets, including two crafted for other churches, comprise the studio’s edition of these Stations. The Granda Stations are original, limited edition works of art, created especially for First Church.
Installation of the Stations involved mounting each one onto a backing and then onto the nave wall. New Guild Art and Design Studio crafted stained oak display boxes to frame the bronze panels. The frames are conceived architecturally, with a center gable and a pitched roof, echoing details of the columbarium’s roof and, in turn, the church’s roof. Roman numerals in the gables and captions at the base of the frames identify each Station. These features are executed in the medium of copper enamel, which also decorates the columbarium. The mottled gold coloration of the enamel frame inserts picks up the greenish cast of the bronze and gives visual unity to the Stations. Links with the building’s exterior and with other interior works contribute to the sense that the Stations belong in the nave. The collaborative work of the Grand and New Guild design stuidos resulted in a unique, custom-made set of Stations of the Cross for First Church that looks as if it has been in place for many years. New Guild installed the Stations two days before Ash Wednesday, 2002.
The Stations of the Cross were the gift of a faithful family of First Church.