Sunday, March 20, 2016

Stations of the Cross: The Eighth Station, Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem*

Jean le Noir, Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
From Petites heures de Jean de Berry
French (Paris), 1375
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 18014, fol. 86v
The Evangelist Luke includes an interesting and dramatic interchange between Jesus and a group of women during His long walk to Calvary.  He tells us that “A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him.   Jesus turned to them and said,Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23: 27-31).   It is generally believed that this is a reference to the coming destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD, an event which had already occurred when Luke’s Gospel was being written. 

Circle of Frans Francken II, Jesus Meets the Women
Belgian, 1604
Private Collection

This rather unexpected encounter between the women and Jesus is memorialized in the Eighth Station of the Cross.  This Station is dramatic in the same way as the Fourth and the Sixth, in which Jesus encounters first His mother, Mary, and the woman who wipes His face, “Veronica”.  

Pierre Mignard, Jesus Meets the Women
French, 1687
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Giandomenico Tiepolo, Jesus Meets the Women
From Stations of the Cross
Italian, 1749
London, British Museum
To my mind this is the most beautiful and most
successful of the images I could find.

This is also the point at which the individual or the community praying the Stations recognizes that the mid-point of their pilgrimage of imagination has been reached.  It is the penultimate Station that represents events along the Way of the Cross.  We will soon be arriving at Golgotha, where the most cruel of the events of Good Friday will be remembered.

Januarius Zick
German, c. 1770
Duesseldorf, Kunstmuseum

Given all this:  its Biblical base, its dramatic emotional content and its location in the chain of Stations I found it very surprising that it has received very little artistic attention.  Apart from images that are actually meant to be designs for or completed works of the Eighth Station images are very scarce.  Perhaps this is because artists found it difficult to separate out a group of women from the general crowds that, from the fifteenth century on, appear in scenes of the Way of the Cross.
James Tissot, Daughters of Jerusalem
From The Life of Christ 
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum

Eric Gill, Jesus Comforts the Women of Jerusalem
English, 1913-1918
London, Westminster Cathedral

© M. Duffy, 2016

*  For the Seventh Station, Jesus Falls the Second Time, please see

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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