What Saint started the ‘Stations of the Cross’ in the Coliseum?
November 25, 2012. (Romereports.com) A few meters from Rome’s Colosseum is the Franciscan convent of St. Boniface. Back in1696 Leonardo da Porto Maurizio, discovered his calling at the age of 20. He was a friar who in a way prevented the demolition of the Coliseum by giving it a religious sense.
He was appointed superior of the convent, but he actually decided to directly ask Pope Benedict XIV, if he could leave that position. His heart he said, was in preaching. He traveled Italy explaining the Gospel out in the streets with examples from everyday life. His preaching also made the Way of the Cross tradition more popular.
“At the time it was more of a prayer exercise, but he asked for the Pope’s permission to recite it in the vernacular. He did not invent the Way of the Cross, but he was the first to give a name to each station, as we know them today. Not in Latin but in the vernacular.”
This room, which was actually an infirmary, was built piece by piece, since the old convent was destroyed. It now includes key items like a habit, shoes and a very special crucifix.
“This room has the crucifix that he wore during some of his popular missions, some of them in Italian Churches or just out on the streets. He would always end his mission with a Way of the Cross.”
His efforts led to the construction of 500 Ways of the Cross around Italy, the most famous is in the Coliseum. On November 27th, 1750 it was inaugurated. It was the first time a religious celebration was held there.
“He wanted to build the Way of the Cross in the Colosseum in honor of the martyrs who lost their lives in Rome and the Colosseum. It was built, but destroyed a century later.”
When he led the Way of the Cross at the Coliseum back in 1750, a new tradition began. That’s actually why every Good Friday, the Pope prays the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum.
A year later, on November 26, 1751 Leonardo da Porto Maurizio died in the infirmary of the convent. Today, the room is used as a small chapel. Just another way to remember this patron saint of missions and his work, which has survived over the centuries.