Romans Growing Fond of Chile's Via Crucis

Life-Size Depictions of Christ's Suffering Line Vatican Thoroughfare

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ROME, APRIL 19, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The world's largest Stations of the Cross will linger in Rome only 10 more days before heading to the Chilean hill in the port city of Coquimbo for which they were commissioned.

The bronze Via Crucis -- 49 life-size statues in 14 stations -- has been stopping passers-by on the Via della Conciliazione since it was inaugurated March 13.

But the statues' placement on the main thoroughfare leading to St. Peter's Basilica is only temporary. The Via Crucis was commissioned for the city of Coquimbo in central Chile by the “Fundacion Cruz del III Milenio."

That foundation was formed after Pope John Paul II’s 1987 visit to Chile and the following year, it began the project to construct a 280-foot cross above Coquimbo. The bronze Via Crucis will complement that work.

Italian artists Pasquale Nava and Giuseppe Allamprese have created the Stations, following the description of the Passion given in the Gospels.

The sculptures were cast and modeled in the vast atelier of Domus Dei, owned by the Congregation of the Pie Discepole del Divin Maestro, which produces art and liturgical objects for churches.

Local media claim the project has cost some €800,000 ($1.1 million), but a vote in Coquimbo showed popular approval of the project.

"It was ordered by the municipality of the city of Coquimbo with the collaboration of the Fundacion Cruz del III Milenio," Mariella Valdiserri, the spokesman of Domus Dei, explained to ZENIT.

Father Ramón Bravo was a consultor for the Coquimbo municipality when the Cross of the Third Millennium was made. Now he has a direct role in coordinating the Via Crucis project.

"The sketches of the Via Crucis were approved personally by Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, then prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments," the priest noted. Cardinal Medina is himself a native of Chile.

The first statues were finished in 2006, and the 15th Station is now being completed. In total there will be 53 statues weighing 33 tons. The Risen Christ is already in Chile.

Valdiserri noted how each statue is unique since the original mold disappears in the lost-wax technique being used for the artwork.

Rosa Scannella, a spokeswoman for Domus Dei, said many people stop by the group's stand near the Via Sacra with the plea: "Keep them here in Rome."