Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Stations of the Cross: Jesus Falls -- The Third, Seventh and Ninth Stations

Guiseppe Bazzani, Jesus Falls
Italian, c.1750
Paris, Musée du Louvre

No passage in the Gospels tells us much about the physical effort it took for Jesus to carry the cross from Pilate’s judgment seat to the hill of Calvary outside the walls of Jerusalem.  The sole indication we have is the reference in the three Synoptic Gospels to a bystander who was forced to help Him carry it, as we shall see shortly. 1

However, it is certainly not surprising that a man who had been taken prisoner the night before, subjected to hostile questioning and to brutal beatings and torture would be in a much weakened state and, consequently, subject to falling under the heavy weight of a substantial piece of wood.  This would be true whether the cross was a full sized complete cross (which would probably have stood about nine feet high) or even just a cross beam, which could have been affixed as needed to uprights that were permanent fixtures of the place of execution. 

I stand about 5 feet, 4 inches tall and I have measured the full extension of my arms.  It is approximately the same as my height, a crossbeam to which a body my size should be affixed would have to be at least 6 feet long.  So, presuming that He stood a bit taller than I am, for Jesus you will need to think of a crossbeam measuring 6 feet at a minimum.  Therefore, whether we are imagining a full cross or even just a crossbeam, we are talking about very large pieces of wood being carried by a person who had been allowed no sleep, probably no food or water and had also probably lost a considerable amount of blood before setting out.  Small wonder that He should fall and need to be helped!

Master of Claude de France, Jesus Falls
From Prayer Book of Claude de France
French (Tours), 1515-1520
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 1166, fol. 12v

Tradition, preserved in the Stations of the Cross, suggests that He fell at least three times, giving us the three stations that have basically the same name.  In the images of the road to Calvary that have been produced by artists over the centuries, it is virtually impossible to tell the falls apart, though in some there are subtle hints, as we shall see. 

Eric Gill. Jesus Falls the First Time
English, 1913-1918
London, Westminster Cathedral

Eric Gill. Jesus Falls the Second Time
English, 1913-1918
London, Westminster Cathedral

Eric Gill. Jesus Falls the Third Time
English, 1913-1918
London, Westminster Cathedral

The pictures that show Jesus fallen, with no one to help Him, could be seen as images of the First Fall, the Third Station.

Third Station --  First Fall 

Jesus Falls
From a Book of Hours
French (Langres), c. 1480-1495
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 26, fol. 112v

Quinten Metsys, Jesus Falls
Flemish, c. 1510-1515
Maastricht, Bonnefantenmsuseum

Francesco Bassano, Jesus Falls
Italian, 1572
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Pieter de Jode after Maarten de Vos, Jesus Falls,
From Thesaurus Novi Testamenti elegantissimus iconibus expressus continens historias atque miracula domini nostri Jesu Christi
Flemish, c.1580
  London,© Trustees of the British Museum

Lubin Baugin, Jesus Falls
French, 1640-1663
Orleans, Musée des Beaux-Arts

Paolo Naldini, Jesus Falls
Italian, c. 1651-1700
Rome, San Marcello al Corso

Charles LeBrun, Jesus Falls
French, 1688
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Jesus Falls
Italian, 1737-1738
Venice, Church of Sant'Alvise

Giandomenico Tiepolo, Christ Falls
Italian, 1772
Madris, Museo Nacional del Prado

Seventh Station -- Second Fall

Those that show Him fallen, with someone helping to raise the cross from His body so that He can rise again, can be seen as images of the Second Fall, the Seventh Station.  In them we can see Simon the Cyrenian, who had been pressed into service to assist Him.  We may also see the presence of Mary and other women and the Apostle John, who met Him in the Fourth Station and follow Him.

Guillaume Hugueniot, Jesus Falls
From Hours of Pierre de Bosredont
French, (Langres), 1460-1470
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS G 55, fol. 14r

Master Francois and Collaborators, Jesus Falls
From Speculum historiale by Vincentius Bellovacensis
French (Paris), 1463
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 50, fol. 231v

Fall of Christ under the Cross
Dutch, c. 1500-1525
Maastricht, Bonnefanten Museum

Bernard van Orley, Jesus Falls
Flemish, 1534
Bruges, Church of Our Lady

Veronese, Jesus Falls
Italian, c. 1550-1600
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Titian, Fallen Jesus
Italian, c.1560
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Paris Nogari, Jesus Falls
Italian, c. 1585-1590
Rome, Church of the Madonna dei Monti

Juan de Valdes Leal, Fallen Jesus on the Way to Calvary
Spanish, c. 1661
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Pierre Mignard, Jesus Falls
French, 1687
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Nicolas de Largilliere, Jesus Falls
French, c. 1710-20
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Ninth Station -- Third Fall

In the images that show Jesus much weakened, falling yet again, with the presence of Simon, Mary and others and especially of Veronica, the woman who wiped His face, and who was introduced in the Eighth Station, obviously represent the Ninth Station, the Third and final Fall.

Anonymous, Jesus Falls and Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments
German, 15th Century
Paris, Musée du Louvre
In this image Jesus is also shown being Stripped of His Garments, which is the subject of the Tenth Station

Jean Pichore, Jesus Falls
From  an Altar Card
French (Paris), c. 1510-1530
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 1147, fol. 1r

Master of the Expulsion of Hagar, Jesus Falls
Dutch, c. 1510-1520
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Anonymous, Jesus Falls
French, 16th Century
Senlis, Musée d'Art et d'Archeologie

Francesco Bassano the Younger, Jesus Falls
Italian, c.1580
Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland

Salvatore Rosa, Jesus Falls
Italian, c. 1662-1673
Chantilly, Musée Condé

Anonymous, Jesus Falls
French, 1675-1700
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Devotional Images

There are also a handful of images that cannot be identified as one fall or the other.  These again have the character of the devotional image, presented to our eyes so that we may become, as it were, a spectator as Jesus falls in front of us on His painful journey to Calvary.

Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Fallen Jesus
Spanish, ca. 1660
Cherbourg-Octeville, Musée Thomas Henry

Eugene Deveria, Fallen Jesus
French, 1846
Pau, Musée des Beaux-Arts

© M. Duffy, 2016
1.        Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26. 

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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