Friday, November 11, 2011


Richard Burton and Jean Simmons from the Movie The Robe

Hello My Friend and Welcome.

You just never know where material for a blog post is going to come from. The thought for today’s post started as one of the pesky emails that are forwarded to you with…you guessed it…pictures attached. But these weren’t cutesy pictures of puppies, or kittens taking a bath, or even cartoons of Maxine; these were pictures of a group of statues depicting the Stations of the Cross outside Groom, TX.

A little research told me that Groom, pop. 568, is a railroad town founded in 1902 and named after Colonel B.B. Groom who established a prosperous ranch in the area. It was a stop along the Route 66 and is home to the famous Leaning Tower of Texas. (I knew you’d ask. It’s a water tower deliberately constructed with one leg shorter than the others. Hey, since they built the Interstate you have to do something to get those travelers into town.)

But little Groom really got on the map when Steve Thomas of Pampa, Texas became disgusted with the huge billboards advertising XXX pornography along I-40 and decided to make a statement of faith by building a 190 foot tall cross. It’s the tallest cross in the Northern Hemisphere, by the way. He’s since added a memorial in memory of the victims of abortion and a life-sized Stations of the Cross…a depiction of the events leading to Christ's crucifixion.

What does any of this have to do with The Life and Times of the Early Chruch, you ask? First, I’d like you to take a second look at the picture of Richard Burton and Jean Simmons at the top of this post. It’s a clip from the 1953 20th Century Fox movie, The Robe, based on a book of the same name by Lloyd C. Douglas. The Robe tells the story of Marcellus Gallo, a Roman soldier who, while in Judea, supervised the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and won the Lord’s robe with a throw of the dice. An epic movie and the first one ever shot in CinemaScope. It won two Oscars.

Above is a second photo from the movie. Burton and Simmons, now Christian converts, have been called before Caesar to explain their behavior. Diana (Jean Simons) carries the robe over her arm. Instead of looking at her, I’d like you to take a look at the soldiers…more particularly, the helmets they’re wearing. 

Here’s another picture. This one is from the 1959 Warner Bros. epic, Ben Hur, which was also based on a book of the same name by Lew Wallace. Ben Hur tells the story of a Jewish Prince, Judah ben Hur (Charlton Heston) who was falsely sent into slavery. The movie, and its unforgettable chariot race, won 11 Oscars. Look at the helmet Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins) is wearing. Just like those worn in The Robe and every other Roman Empire flick you’ve ever seen, right?

So what is it about these Centurion’s helmets that makes them so interesting? Very few people know it, but they are all wrong, wrong, wrong. In each case Hollywood has the crest of the helmet running from front to back. The distinctive helmets worn by a Roman Centurion had a crest alright, but it ran from side to side. Yeah, I know it sounds a little weird, especially after watching all those Hollywood actors running around with front to back crests.

Now take a look at the picture of the statue above. It's from Groom, TX, and, lo and behold, they got it right! This is first time I have ever seen a painting, photograph, or movie still that correctly portrays the Centurion’s helmet. And, by golly, I thought it was worth sharing…even if it does make him look kinda like an Indian chief.

For those not familiar, the Stations of the Cross originated as early as the 5th Century. Trips to Jerusalem were popular pilgrimages and the Stations were an attempt to reproduce the important shrines that one might visit while in the Holy Land for those who couldn’t make the trip. The earliest use of the word stations, as applied to the accustomed halting-places along the Via Sacra (the sacred road) in Jerusalem, occurs in the narrative of an English pilgrim, William Wey, who visited the Holy Land in the mid-1400s, and described pilgrims following the footsteps of Christ to the place of crucifixion.

The object of the Stations is to help the faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer, through meditating upon the chief events of Christ's sufferings and death. It has become one of the most popular devotions for Roman Catholics, as well as other Christian denominations, especially on Good Friday. The number of stations has been set at 14 since the early 1700’s. You can get more information about the Stations of the Cross by clicking her to see our earlier post on the subject. And if you would like more information about the cross and statues in Groom, TX, here’s a link.
Until next time, we wish you Peace and Blessings.

No comments: