A Duck Boat tour zooms down Boylston Street, tourists craning their necks to gather a glimpse of the scene unfolding before them.
There, in the midst of Copley Square, a figure lies on a cross, looking up in agony. Nearby, three women weep, huddled in sorrow.
On this Good Friday, the Stations of the Cross had come to the heart of the city, with members of Trinity Church in the City of Boston offering an artistic interpretation of the religious devotion.
Six performers, two musicians, and a cleric led a group around the square, acting out the stations at points around the sprawling lawn.
The Stations of the Cross, which outline Jesus’ path to crucifixion, is central to Good Friday services around the world. Trinity incorporated musical and artistic elements, performed amid the bustle of the city and framed by New England’s tallest building.
At each stage, the actors, dressed in black, struck a pose and went into a formation that fit the story for that station
The dreary sky and light rain provided an appropriately somber backdrop.
Because Trinity Church sits at the center of Copley Square, the city and its modernity were omnipresent throughout the telling of the story.
As Jesus met his afflicted mother on the side of the square, a Route 9 MBTA bus bound for Broadway disgorged passengers. Jesus met the women of Jerusalem in front of the booth for discounted arts tickets at Bolyston and Dartmouth streets. Onlookers took videos with GoPros. Tourists snapped pictures on their iPhones.
Perhaps the most powerful moment was when Jesus fell for the third time, the ninth station. The actress portraying him sprawled out on the Boston Marathon medallion affixed to the pavement. That medallion maps the Marathon course. She pressed her face to the cold, wet pavement while a violin played a melancholy tune.
The image evoked the pain the city experienced during the 2013 Marathon bombings, explained the Rev. Rita Powell, the Trinity cleric who led the procession.
“That’s such an important event for Trinity and Old South [Church], and obviously for Boston and beyond,” she said afterward. “It seemed like we just had to honor what was there.”
Powell said her inspiration for the especially stark depiction of the Stations of the Cross came from the deaths of Tamir Rice and Michael Brown, two black teens shot by white police officers.
“Their bodies were just left in the street,” she said, fighting back tears. “I thought, ‘What would it look like if it really was a body on the ground, and we all kind of viscerally know that’s wrong in a deep way? ’ ”
When Jesus was crucified almost 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, a large festival was going on around him, similar to the way in which Boston was humming around Trinity’s procession through Copley Square.
“It was among the people at the time, and here we are again doing it among the people,” said Anne Elvins, 79, who has been a member of the church since she was a teenager. “I just kind of soaked it up, the whole thing.”J.D. Capelouto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.