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Rome Reports

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Way of the Cross in the Colosseum, an ancient tradition


During Lent, a common practice is focusing on Jesus' passion on the cross. Yet, this religious tradition dates back centuries in Rome. 

The Colosseum, which frequently saw bloodshed and violence, became one of the most unlikely places to meditate on the Way of the Cross. Yet, the monument's technical director, Barbara Nazzaro explains when this prayer began here.

BARBARA NAZZARO
Technical director and architect
“A series of stations are made in the 800s like this one behind me. It was reconstructed two years ago from the original pieces, in order to be able to do the Way of the Cross. Therefore the Way of the Cross is an ancient tradition.”

She said at first, stations would be marked by tombs, but as they wore away, this religious practice is forgotten.

Years later, to avoid the destruction of this historical arena, the Way of the Cross makes a comeback.

BARBARA NAZZARO
Technical director and architect
“The first one revive it was Pope John XXIII, who made only one station. Then, with Paul VI the Way of the Cross began again. It wasn't followed with the tombs or stations that did not exist anymore, but instead with a procession. Then, it continues to develop, leading even outside and ends under the current terrace of the Temple of Venus in Rome.”

This is where pope's continue to pray the Way of the Cross on Good Friday of every year. A selected few start at the cross inside the Colosseum, pray at each of the stations inside and then end outside the monument. 

BARBARA NAZZARO
Technical director and architect
“It's been many, many years since the last pope entered the Colosseum to pray them. John Paul II was the last one to do so. It's a deep and very heartfelt religious practice.”

This year, the meditations for the stations will be written by an Italian nun, Sr. Eugenia Bonetti (80) who has first-hand experience fighting against human trafficking. Thus, this will be the central focus of this special prayer on Good Friday.