Calvary (sanctuary)

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Sacro Monte di Varallo, Tabacchetti and Giovanni d'Enrico, Christ on the Road to Calvary, 1599-1600, sculpted main figures and a fresco behind
Devotions at Žemaičių Kalvarija in Lithuania, 2006
Chapels at the Sacro Monte di Oropa
The Conception of Mary at the Sacro Monte di Oropa
Chapels in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
Mystery play at Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, 2011

A calvary, also called calvary hill, Sacred Mount, or Sacred Mountain, is a type of Christian sacred place, built on the slopes of a hill, composed by a set of chapels, usually laid out in the form of a pilgrims' way. It is intended to represent the passion of Jesus Christ and takes its name after Calvary, the hill in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified.

Sacro Monte di Domodossola
Calvary hill in Maria Lanzendorf (1700)

These function as greatly expanded versions of the Stations of the Cross that are usual in Catholic churches, allowing the devout to follow the progress of the stages of the Passion of Christ along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. Each chapel contains a large image of the scene from the Passion it commemorates, sometimes in sculpture, that may be up to life-size. This kind of shrine was especially popular in the Baroque period when the Holy Land was under Turkish rule and it was difficult to make a pilgrimage to the Mount Calvary in Jerusalem.

Calvaries were especially popular with the Franciscan and Jesuit orders, and are most common in Italy and Habsburg Central Europe. They were usually placed in parks near a church or a monastery, typically on a hill which the visitor gradually ascends. Italian ones are usually called a sacro monte ("holy mountain" or "hill"); there are a group of nine Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy that are especially notable; their dates of foundation vary between 1486 and 1712. Devotions would be most popular in Passion Week, before Easter, when large processions around the stations would be held, and mystery plays might be acted. If a calvary was established in an inhabited place, it might result in a location of a new village or town. Several villages and towns are named after such a complex.[citation needed]


The Mount of Calvary was the site outside the gates of Jerusalem where the crucifixion of Christ took place. The scene was replicated around the world in numerous "calvary hills" after the Counter-Reformation and they are used by Roman Catholics in particular as part of their worship and veneration of God.

The term is derived from the Latin translation in the Vulgate of the Aramaic name for original hill, Golgotha, where it was called calvariae locus, Latin for "the place of the skull".[1][2] Martin Luther translated Golgatha as "skull place" (Scheddelstet). This translation is debated; at the very least it is not clear whether it referred to the shape of the hill, its use as a place of execution or burial or refers to something else.[3]

"Calvary hill" today refers to a roughly life-size depiction of the scenes of the Passion of Christ, with sculptures of additional figures. These scenes are set up on the slopes of a hill. The traditional fourteen stations of the cross are usually laid out on the way up to the top of the pilgrimage hill and there is often a small, remote church or chapel located between a few dozen to several hundred metres away.

Calvary hills must not be confused with calvaries, which are a specific type of wayside monumental crucifix, a tradition mostly found in Brittany especially in the Finistère, built in parish closes between 1450 and the 17th century.

Calvaries in the world[edit]




Lower Austria[edit]

Upper Austria[edit]




  • Calvary Hill Chapel, Arzl, in the Innsbruck quarter of Arzl
  • in Kufstein
  • Calvary Hill, Thaur



  • in Miadziel (a small town north of Minsk (Мядзел))
  • in Minsk (Мінск)





Czech Republic[edit]

Chapels at the calvary in Jiřetín pod Jedlovou, Czech Republic



Mount St Bernard Abbey, Leicestershire.


(in alphabetical order by place)





A 17th century Verkiai Calvary in Vilnius, Lithuania, c. 1840s


Chapels at the calvary in Góra Świętej Anny, Poland
Chapels at the Pakość Calvary, Poland





See also[edit]


  1. ^ "translation of calvariae by Whitaker's Words". Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2018-10-07.
  2. ^ Bibliotheca Augustana: Hieronimi Vulgata, Evangelium Secondum Lucam, 23:33
  3. ^ "Mount Calvary" article in the Catholic Encyclopedia (English)
  4. ^ Kalvarienberg neben Kartause Aggsbach, Wachau / Österreich
  5. ^ Kalvarienberg in Leoben, Steiermark/Österreich
  6. ^ The stations of the cross on the calvary hill in Moresnet / Belgien
  7. ^ Kalvarienberg Archived 2018-10-08 at the Wayback Machine auf
  8. ^ "Sights". Doľany, Pezinok District. Archived from the original on 11 May 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2020.



  • Atlas der europäischen Heiligen Berge, Kalvarienberge und Devotionsstätten (in German), Turin: Direktion für Tourismus, Sport und Gärten der Region Piemont, 2003
  • Walter Brunner (1990), Steirische Kalvarienberge (in German), Graz etc.: Schnider, ISBN 3-900993-02-5
  • Elisabeth Roth (1967), Der volkreiche Kalvarienberg in Literatur und Bildkunst des Spätmittelalters (in German) (2nd ed.), Berlin: Erich SchmidtPhilologische Studien und Quellen 2, ISSN 0554-0674
  • Louise-Marie Tillet (1989), Reisewege durch die Bretagne. Calvaires und romanische Kirchen (in German), Würzburg: Echter Verlag, ISBN 3-429-01186-8
  • Kath. Pfarramt; Maria Himmelfahrt; Johannes Port (1989), Der Kalvarienberg zu Wettenhausen. Gebete und Geschichte einer altehrwürdigen Wallfahrtsstätte (in German), Kammeltal: s. n.


  • Yves-Pascal Castel (1997), Croix et calvaires en Bretagne. = Kroaziou ha kalvarihou or bro (in French), Trelevenez: Minihi levenez, ISBN 2-908230-09-7 – also in the Breton language
  • Marc Déceneux (2001), La Bretagne des enclos et des calvaires (in French), Rennes: Ouest-France, ISBN 2-7373-2261-8Mémoires de l'histoire
  • Yannick Pelletier (1996), Les enclos Paroissiaux de Bretagne (in French), Paris: GisserotLes universels Gisserot 13, ZDB-ID 2216999-4

External links[edit]