Walk the length of the Stations of the Cross at Cloisters on the Platte and you will have covered the 2,500 steps Jesus Christ took from Jerusalem to his crucifixion. Life-size bronze statues tell the story of Jesus’ path to his death as part of the retreat’s Stations of the Cross. Each stop along the path includes an audio description of the events leading from his sentence of death by Pontius Pilate to his entombment.
The bronze statues at the Gretna, Nebraska, retreat stand about seven feet tall and were created by 10 artists from around the United States. The Stations of the Cross are the only area of the retreat open to the public on a regular basis. Cloisters is a project created by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts as an opportunity for people of faith to meet.
Signs lead the way to Cloisters, located a few miles south of Gretna, along Fishery Road. Take exit 432 and head south on Highway 31. Once there, guests are asked to park in a parking lot and await the arrival of a shuttle bus to transport them on to the retreat’s grounds. Shuttles run on a regular basis.
At the visitors center, you’ll receive a handheld audio device and earphones (you get to keep the earphones). The center requests a $10 donation. Once ready to move on to the Stations, you’ll ride another shuttle bus to the path’s entrance. At that point, you are welcome to take your time exploring the Stations of the Cross.
As you walk along the route, you’ll notice the beauty of the area, with treelined rolling hills. A lake lays in front of the retreat and chapel. Lodges are located behind them. The area is off limits to visitors, unless part of a retreat.
Stations of the Cross path
The first station establishes visitors’ expectations. Viewing Pontius Pilate’s declaration that Jesus Christ will be executed, you start to feel emotions bubbling below surface. With Roman soldiers standing guard, Pilate passes judgement on Jesus.
Jesus accepts his cross at Station II. This starts his walk to Golgotha, site of his crucifixion. With soldiers alongside, he begins his walk.
The third station marks the first time Jesus falls carrying the cross. He would fall three times during his walk.
Jesus meets his mother, Mary, at Station IV. Joined by John, the statue depicts Mary stretching her hand to his son’s in what appears to be an attempt to save her son. Jesus tells Mary that she needs to take John as her new son. As a parent, it’s difficult not to feel emotion as a mother knows she’s losing her son and there’s nothing she can do to stop it.
At Station V, Simon of Cyrene comes to Jesus’ aid and helps him carry the cross. A woman is shown reaching out to the two as a Roman soldier lifts a whip toward her.
Veronica walks out of the crowd and wipes Christ’s face at Station VI. Afterward, his face is shown on the cloth.
Station VII shows Jesus’ second fall. A woman tries to give him a drink of water as a soldier’s whip appears headed toward Jesus.
Jesus meets the women of the market at Station VIII.
Jesus falls for the third time at the ninth station. Soldiers threaten physical force against him.
Soldiers seem to revel while disrobing Jesus at Station X. The statue shows a soldier kneeling at one end of the cross watching his comrades attempt to take away Jesus’ dignity by stripping his clothes.
Station XI depicts Jesus’ nailing to the cross. You can only imagine the physical pain he felt, regardless of his strong beliefs. At this point, I was cringing envisioning the act.
Jesus is crucified
Jesus’s cross is raised with him nailed to it at the 12th station. The sun’s rays represent the heat of the day as Jesus is left to die on the cross. He asks God to forgive those who crossed him. Jesus dies at this point.
Soldiers later lower his body to be given to his mother for his burial at Station XIII.
At Station XIV, an angel stands over Jesus’ body after he is entombed.
Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, the Cloisters’ Stations of the Cross provide an impressive and realistic depiction of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. It’s an artistic masterpiece. We recommend visiting the Stations, which are open 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Thursday.
For additional information on the retreat, please visit www.cloistersontheplatte.com.