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So, I would have expected 12 stations of the cross. I mean, lets face it, a lot of things in the Bible happen in 12. 12 disciples, 12 tribes, etc...

Seeing as the stations of the cross are not Scripture, but rather a later invention, why were the stations that were chosen, chosen?

And why 14?

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2 x 7? ......... –  Wikis Apr 4 '12 at 5:22
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I'm guessing they first defined the important moments and then they added to 14, instead of starting with 14 and then working out how to fill them. –  Wikis Apr 4 '12 at 10:03
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When i walked the stations in Jerusalem, I remember being struck at how arbitrary some of them were. For instance, Jesus dropping the cross 3x. Where does that tradition even come from? –  Affable Geek Apr 4 '12 at 11:44
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The history section on the page we both linked to states, "The number of stations varied between seven and thirty; seven was common" (in 15th & 16th centuries) and "In 1731, Pope Clement XII extended to all churches the right to have the stations, provided that a Franciscan father erected them, with the consent of the local bishop. At the same time the number was fixed at fourteen." But no explanation. –  Wikis Apr 4 '12 at 11:56
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Not all numbers have numerological significance. I saw a cartoon a while ago with the caption "Overanalyzing". It shows a policeman telling a detective, "We had a murder two months ago, another murder a month ago, and two murders this month." And the detective replies, "Hmm, 1, 1, and 2, the first three numbers of the Fibonacci sequence ..." –  Jay Apr 5 '12 at 4:15

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Quoth newadvent.org:

With regard to the number of Stations it is not at all easy to determine how this came to be fixed at fourteen, for it seems to have varied considerably at different times and places.

The article as a whole actually goes into quite a few different variations which are found and expounds on those which were varied and altogether absent. To compound the matter further, some parishes will include a 15th station: the resurrection.

It is my suspicion (using this article), but this is, at best, speculation, that it happened to be that the 14 stations which are used today happen to be the 14 stations which were used at the time in Rome. It is not unheard of for normalization to be propagated based on what was common in the area of the Roman See and, lacking better evidence, this seems like it makes for a good fit. Of course the fact that there were a number of published documents describing things not wholly unlike the modern practice from the two centuries prior does not hurt either.

This ambiguity was also something which lead to Blessed Pope John Paul II creating a new stations of the cross in the 1990's.


While this is by no means a mystery on the level of the sacraments, it is still something which cannot be known.

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If I were to go for a numerological answer, I would probably say Apostles + Christ + Mary, also 7 = holy * 2 natures, and 12 tribes + parents (like the 14 celestial bodies of Joseph's dream) –  cwallenpoole Apr 4 '12 at 20:47
    
regarding your numerological answer, have you see Augustine explain numbers?! He has this whole thing on why 7 and 3 are special numbers. It's crazy. (but also really cool) –  Thomas Shields Apr 4 '12 at 21:10

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