Walking in the Footsteps of Christ on the Via Dolorosa

iylanaDestinations, Israel and Palestine2 Comments

As soon as we arrived in Jerusalem to spend Christmas in the Holy Land, we headed for the Old City and quickly found ourselves on the Via Dolorosa, walking the path of Christ to Calvary. From Damascus Gate where we entered, we made our way to Lion’s Gate where the Way of Sorrows begins. Though the Old City can be a confusing place to navigate, each of the Stations of the Cross are marked by a bronze disc with Roman numerals, and usually a commemorative chapel. They will be easier to locate than you expect, but you’ll still need at least half a day to allow time for locating the stations while you enjoy the bustle of the Old City. The first eight stations are along the path from Lions Gate leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and stations 9-14 are all located on the grounds of the church. It’s important to remember that the city has been built upon for centuries, meaning the original street level where Christ would have walked is about 20 feet below the current street level.

Lions Gate | Penny Caravan

Lions Gate leading to the Old City and the Via Dolorosa.

Entering Lions Gate, you’ll soon see St. Anne’s Church on the right, built over the grotto where the Virgin Mary was born. Though not a station of the cross, this crusader-era chapel should not be missed. The acoustics are incredible, and we were lucky to walk in just as a lone pilgrim was singing “O Come Emmanuel” which took my breath away. The Pools of Bethesda are just next to the church.

Via-Dolorosa-Map

1 | Jesus is Condemned to Death
The first station is the Antonia Fortress, where Jesus was tried and sentenced by Pontius Pilate. Today it houses Al-Omariya School, so you can only enter when school is not in session.

2 | Jesus Carries the Cross
The second station is just across from the first, in the Franciscan Monastery. There are two chapels here marking the condemnation and flagellation of Christ. On Fridays, the Franciscan monks lead a procession down the Via Dolorosa starting from here.

Entering the Franciscan Monastery and looking to the left, you'll see the Chapel of the Condemnation.

Entering the Franciscan Monastery courtyard and looking to the left, you’ll see the Chapel of the Condemnation.

Entering the Franciscan Monastery courtyard and looking to the right, you'll see the Chapel of the Flagellation.

Entering the Franciscan Monastery courtyard and looking to the right, you’ll see the Chapel of the Flagellation.

Chapel of the Condemnation

Chapel of the Condemnation.

Chapel of the Flagellation

Chapel of the Flagellation.

Ceiling of the Chapel of the Flagellation

Ceiling of the Chapel of the Flagellation commemorates the Crown of Thorns that was placed on Jesus’ head here.

3 | Jesus Falls for the First Time
Returning to the street, turn to the right and continue until you reach Al-Wad Street, which will be familiar to you if you entered the Old City from Damascus Gate as we did. The Armenian Hospice is located on this corner on the right, and on the corner to the left is where you’ll find the third station.

Locating hospices will help guide you down the Way.

Locating hospices will help guide you down the Way.

The Polish Catholic Church was built by Armenian Catholics from Poland, and houses the third and fourth stations.

The Polish Catholic Church was built by Armenian Catholics from Poland, and houses the third and fourth stations.

The third station.

The third station.

4 | Jesus Meets His Mother
Continue through a gift shop and downstairs to find the fourth station, which is closer to the original level of the street.

The fourth station.

Saying a special prayer for my mother at the fourth station.

5 | Simon the Cyrene Carries the Cross
Continue South along Al-Wad and you’ll soon come to Aqabat al-Khanqah Street where the Via Dolorosa turns to the right. On this corner is the fifth station where Simon carried Jesus’ cross. Just across the street is Abu Shukri’s, a good place to stop for a rest. There were so many restaurants we wanted to try, that we opted for small snacks of hummus and falafel throughout the day.

The fifth station.

The fifth station.

The best hummus we have ever had.

The best hummus we ever had.

6 | Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
Coming out of the fifth station, you will turn left onto Aqabat al-Khanqah street and ascend into the souk. On the left is a chapel built where Veronica wiped the face of Jesus.

Sixth station

Sixth station.

Sixth station.

Sixth station.

7 | Jesus Falls for the Second Time
Continuing through the souk, you’ll soon reach a door with bright red details which marks the place where Jesus fell for the second time.

Seventh station.

Seventh station.

8 | Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
Be on the lookout for the Greek Orthodox Monastery, which is adjacent to the eighth station. This is the only station that does not have its own chapel and is marked only by the bronze disc.

Eighth station.

Eighth station.

9 | Jesus Falls for the Third Time
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is shared among the different denominations. We entered the church grounds from the rooftop level through the Coptic chapel which houses the ninth station. From here, we crossed the rooftop courtyard and descended back to ground level through a series of Ethiopian chapels.

A banner at the ninth station honors the Coptic Christians who were recently beheaded for their faith by the Islamic state.

A banner at the ninth station honors the Coptic Christians who were recently beheaded for their faith by the Islamic state.

Via Dolorosa | Penny Caravan

Rooftop courtyard of the Ethiopian Monastery.

Via Dolorosa | Penny Caravan

Ethiopian chapel.

Via Dolorosa | Penny Caravan

Ethiopian chapel.

10 | Jesus is Stripped of His Garments
The compound of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was first built in the 4th century under Helena, mother of Constantine. Today it is jointly managed by the Catholic, Greek, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian and Syrian Orthodox. Interestingly, the keys to the church were handed to a trusted Muslim family in the 7th century to avoid conflicts between the rival Christian sects, and this family is still today responsible for unlocking the doors at sunrise and locking up at sunset.

Enter the church and you are immediately facing the Stone of Unction, which commemorates Jesus’ body being prepared for burial. Ascend the steps to your right to visit stations 10-13 at the Chapel of Calvary.

The unassuming main entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The unassuming main entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Stone of Unction, looking back to the doors of the main entrance.

The Stone of Unction, looking back to the doors of the main entrance.

Pilgrims touch, kiss and prostrate themselves over the stone where Jesus' body was anointed for burial.

Pilgrims touch, kiss and prostrate themselves over the Stone of Unction.

Via Dolorosa | Penny Caravan

Lamps at the Stone of Unction.

11 | Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
After ascending the steps, you arrive in the Chapel of Calvary, the location of Christ’s crucifixion. Glass covers the rock of Calvary, which pilgrims may touch through a hole under the altar.

Jesus is nailed to the cross.

Jesus is nailed to the cross.

12 | Jesus Dies on the Cross
Pilgrims may kneel under the shrine to touch the rock of Calvary.

Pilgrims may kneel under the altar to touch the rock of Calvary.

Via Dolorosa | Penny Caravan
Via Dolorosa | Penny Caravan
Via Dolorosa | Penny Caravan

13 | Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross
Via Dolorosa | Penny Caravan

14 | Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
Return downstairs and follow the path to the right. A series of small chapels can be found along the path that curves around the building to the final station, where a shrine is built over Jesus’ tomb.

A grotto chapel where Helena found the true cross.

A grotto chapel where tradition holds that Helena found the true cross.

The holiest site in Christendom, the tomb of Christ's resurrection.

The holiest site in Christendom, the tomb of Christ’s resurrection.

The dome over the tomb.

The dome over the tomb.

Entering the tomb.

Entering the tomb.

Inside the tomb.

Inside the tomb.

Priests make a processional every hour.

Priests entering the tomb.

The main dome of the church.

The main dome of the church, the Crusader Chapel.

As you complete your tour of the Holy Sepulchre, you may want to sit in the courtyard of the church to reflect on your visit, or head back into the souk for some mint tea or fresh pomegranate juice. After all, the souks have always been part of the pilgrim’s journey!

No matter your religious beliefs, completing the Via Dolorosa is a good way to understand the Christian heritage of Jerusalem and the centuries of pilgrimages that have defined this city. May the path bring you enlightenment!

How We Took a Three-Week Trip to the Holy Land for Less Than $300 Per Person
Itinerary and Price Breakdown: Christmas in the Holy Land
Jerusalem for Beginners

Like this post? Pin it!
Walking the Via Dolorosa | Penny Caravan

2 Comments on “Walking in the Footsteps of Christ on the Via Dolorosa”

  1. Thank you so much for the wonderful pictures and for your journey through the holy land. Really remarkable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *