Interview with sr.Else-Marie Norland about the new Stations of the Cross

After the presentation of the new Stations of the Cross for St.Olav Cathedral on our web-page, we received some startled responses to the fact that the images did not follow the traditional catholic Stations. The series of icons will most likely be placed in the crypt of the cathedral together with the altar front depicting St. Olav's last days.

Sr.Else-Marie Norland at Sancta Katarinahjemmet

Sr. Anne Bente Hadland has interviewed Sr. Else-Marie, the artist behind the icons:

Sr. Else-Marie, you are the master behind the new Stations of the Cross for St. Olav Church, a Stations-series consisting of 14 icons depicting scenes from Jesus' last days in Jerusalem. The Stations are a little different from what we normally find in a catholic church. Can you elucidate on this?

Well, I call it Prayers for the Passion of Christ. It opens for a wandering with Christ through his suffering, death and resurrection. This Stations of the Cross begins with the Last Supper. That is important! This is where Jesus says goodbye to his closest friends, this is where He explains his life and his offer, why he was born into this world. This is followed by the foot-washing, which to my mind is the supreme example of how we can live our lives as an echo of His life.

So would you say that the emphasis is slightly different?

Stations of the Cross has been many different things through the ages. In Medieval times, when this type of prayers gained popularity, we find many varieties - from seven and up to thirty images or stations. The Franciscans were central in making them known and loved. The classical 14 Stations, as we know them today, were not established until the 18th century. This form is an expression of the piety which developed at that time.

How is your Stations different from this classic form?

First of all, this Stations of the Cross is not "mine". It comes from the Novgorod-school and is a depiction of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection. The original consists of two processional plates with eight icons on each. These icons are housed in the National Gallery in Oslo. They date back to the 16th century.

We find evidence for all the scenes in the Gospel. In fact, they used the Gospel texts as inspiration for the images, whereas the classical Stations do not. There is nothing wrong with that, but many images in the classical Stations are based on traditional stories, not on the Gospel. For example, it is nowhere written that Christ falls three times, neither that Veronica hands him her linen cloth. It is also interesting to note that even today, new Stations are being created. 

Can you say more about that?

The Stations of the Cross is, and has been for its entire existence, a popular and positive form of prayer. Even today there are a number of different Stations. Pope John Paul II made a Gospel-based Stations of the Cross in 1991 which he used several times during the Good Friday service in the Colloseum, and which also was used by Benedict XVI.

The Stations of the Cross is, as are all forms of prayerful devotion, meant to be a help to immerse oneself in the faith and draw closer to Christ and to grasp His message. Sometimes new images is just what is needed to achieve that. I certainly hope and pray that this new Stations of the Cross in St. Olav Church can contribute to this.