Joe De Matteo

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The Garden of the Stations of the Cross at St. Augustine Church, Eagle Park, Ossining, NY

by Joseph De Matteo

A wonderful destination; a moving Spiritual experience

I sit on a bench surrounded by fifteen monoliths.  They are the fourteen Stations of the Cross…plus one.

Before me, flanked by two of the towering monuments¾Pilate condemning Jesus and Jesus accepting His cross¾there is a magnificent view: The lower Hudson River Valley.

Croton Point juts out from the Eastern Shore of the great river, then curves southwestward, across my view.  On this bright and warm first morning in November, 1999, it is covered with golden trees, and green and straw grass, and, lying within its protective embrace, is Eagle Bay¾this is the Croton River Delta.

            As a hawk glides across the pale blue sky and the golden mountains beyond, a breeze rustles the autumn leaves of threes on the low mountain I sit on.

I stand and walk to the edge of the large courtyard to get a better look at the bay and shore beneath me.  I see a commuter train on its way to Manhattan, twenty-five miles to the south; and on the smooth and glittering surface of the bay, a small sailboat slowly drifts in the same direction. 

From high above the ground the church bells announce their task, then chime the time¾it is 10 o’clock.  My eyes pick up the sailboat as it re-appears form behind a tree.  I look across the wideness of the Hudson River to the mountains on its western side.  An odd hump-shaped mountain reminds me of the many different, oddly shaped mountains along the valley; my eye travels the horizon from south to north in wonder.

How majestic and peaceful, I think.

But the thought disturbs me.  I turn and look at the scenes depicted by the graphic sculptures around me: The torturous march and execution of the Man who preached peace and love; his mother’s anguish; the faces of the spectators, suffering in witness of the unwarranted cruelties.

And, of course, the images of the Prince of Peace, whose body is torn and bleeding.

Now the question: How can I have felt such peaceful solitude, while surrounded by this pain and anguish?

I walk off the main gardened patio toward the wide path that leads to the climactic, fifteenth structure.  I pass Jesus being nailed to the cross, then with my hand on my brow to shade my eyes from the sun, I look up at Jesus as he dies on the cross.  I continue to the next station further along the path, but this time I walk into the shadow of the towering monolith¾Jesus taken down from the cross. This depicts Jesus’ broken and lifeless body being held by His mother, her face torn with torment¾a window to her broken heart¾brilliantly contrasted by the peaceful countenance of her Son.

I walk up the slight grade, a gentle breeze on my face, the sweet smell of autumn filling my nostrils, my body warmed by the bright sun, and stop at the fourteenth station¾Jesus being placed in the sepulcher.  I stop for only a moment, because I see the answer to my question on the last of the towering structures.

On this monument, in place of the Roman numerals that mark each of the other stations, a simple cross has been carved into the stone above the legend He is Risen. 

 I remember my first viewing of these sculptures and how disturbing I found them.  On that first visit the inhumanity, the pain and sorrow overwhelmed me. 

But that is not the message of Christ.  The message of Christ is one of Joy. 

The Stations of the Cross are part of the gloom and sorrow of Good Friday, but here at Eagle Park, these sculptures go beyond the Passion.  They tell the complete story; which ultimately is a story of Hope. 

Yes, He is Risen.

Stations of the Cross by Nino Di Simone

            Taking humble clay to new heights, Sculptor Nino Di Simone’s fifteen ceramic boards are sculptured in clay and baked in a handcrafted oven; all in the ancient tradition of the majolica artists of the Ceramic School of Castelli.  Professor Di Simone chose subdued shades of gold and blue as the coloring for his haunting depictions. He presents only the crucified Christ glazed in the un-pigmented natural terracotta color.

Each monument is a brick and mortar structure 15 1/2 feet tall, 5 feet wide, and is 2 1/2 feet deep.  Housed in the nook of each structure is one of the fifteen bas-relief sculpture boards.  The boards measure 32 inches wide by 112 inches high.

            Professor Di Simone’s three-dimensional (bas-relief) figures physically project off the boards by as much as a foot; But on another dimension these haunting figures seem to reach out to tell their story.

The Grounds

Nestled on a hilltop overlooking the magnificent Hudson River Valley, the Piazza of the Stations of the Cross at Eagle Park covers an area of some fourteen thousand square feet.  It is comprised of a beautiful garden square (76 feet wide and 120 feet long), with ten of the towering monuments on three sides of it.  The southern side of the square opens up to a narrowing path (narrowing from a width of 42 feet to 15 feet) that gently rises to the fifteenth board, which depicts the Risen Christ.

With the majestic background of mountains and river, the power of Nino Di Simone’s Stations of the Cross is magnified one-hundred fold.

Located at Saint Augustine Church, Rt. 9 Eagle Park, Ossining, NY 10562. 

All are Welcome

The Lenten schedule for the outdoor Stations of the Cross are: Friday evenings at 7:30. 

All are welcome and encouraged to attend a prayer service or to visit our.

Organize a parish trip, come by yourself or with your family.  Saint Augustine Church is on Rt. 9 Eagle Park, Ossining, NY 10562 (914-941-0067).

A Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithful who make the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross.

 Joe De Matteo

Copyright March 2001 Joseph De Matteo all rights reserved.

 

Joseph De Matteo

Joseph De Matteo

 

© Copyright All rights reserved 1999-2012


 
 
 
 
 
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