The Stations of the Cross: A Calculated Trap?


183 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-7714-1312-2
DDC 704.9'4853'0971




Reviewed by Terrence Paris

Terrence Paris is Public Services Librarian at Mount St. Vincent
University in Halifax.


Christ’s suffering on the road to Golgotha, the via crucis, is the
image at the heart of the 14-episode devotion called the Stations of the
Cross. Shantz, a visual artist who teaches at the University of
Saskatchewan, focuses on the works of four contemporary Canadian artists
who have been inspired by the Stations in a way that suggests a more
vital response than that evoked by the conventional, popular images
arranged along the side walls of churches.

Beth Strachan, the only practicing Catholic and “nonprofessional”
in the group, used the text of an Anglican sermon on the theme of
suffering as the inspiration for her oil painting The Suffering, which
depicts 14 scenes of the Passion. Tony Urquhart has based The XIV
Stations of the Cross, a series of nonfigurative, abstract textured
panels, on open-air stations he has visited in France. Fred Hagan calls
his series of lithographs Ladders to draw attention to the dominant
motif of the ladder as the archetypal symbol of transcendence, which
unites 12 of the 13 images. (I find it difficult to understand how
Hagan’s definition of stages in the development of individual
consciousness translates into a visual interpretation of the via crucis,
and I suspect that Shantz is not clear about it either.)

Shantz then describes the stained-glass windows designed by Carolyn Van
Huyse-Delaney for the chapel of the Holy Cross Centre, which was
established near Lake Erie by the Passionist Community and dedicated to
developing a spirituality for a new ecological age. The Stations of the
Cosmos Windows relate in no recognizable way to the traditional Stations
of the Cross. The pilgrim meditates on Earth itself as the deepest
source of suffering, as well as the deepest source of home and
compassion; the stages of Christ’s Passion are seen in the scarred
hillsides, polluted water, and toxic atmosphere of Earth.

The five series are well reproduced in 11 color plates and 19
black-and-white figures. The bibliography lists secondary works cited in
the text. The absence of an index is inconvenient. There is much of
interest here for students of religious themes in contemporary art, and
of the creative response to New Age spirituality.


Shantz, Susan D., “The Stations of the Cross: A Calculated Trap?,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,