Stalking Jesus: Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Years of repetition and habit made me get used to the concept of Jesus as just that – a concept, backed by deep faith that needs no proof. True, at some points in my life I did question His existence, especially in light of all the world’s (and my – how could we ignore my (!!) ) suffering, and an overall curious and questioning mind. But I’ve lived and seen enough to know that there is a greater power way beyond anyone else’s. I feel it. I feel Him. And what’s there to lose by believing anyway? Nothing. What’s there to gain? Potentially everything.

Of course, belief in a Higher Being does not necessarily mean belief in Jesus Christ*. But you’d probably be surprised that most scholars are in agreement that there was, indeed, a historical Jesus – an actual person who walked this planet some 2,000 years ago, was baptized by John, preached to people, and crucified to death by order of Pontius Pilate. The earliest historical non-Christian record was from Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus, who mentioned Jesus twice in his manuscript Antiquities of the Jews in 93/94 AD. However, not even this knowledge made Jesus as concrete to me as when we actually went to Israel, and none made the crucifixion as real and painful as when we walked the path to His Cross and suffering – the Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem.

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

First Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death
Second Station: Jesus Carries His Cross

We joined the Sandeman Tour, which started in the Third Station. The first station, where Jesus is said to have been ordered to death by Pontius Pilate, is inside a school called Islamic Al-Omariyeh – entry  is not allowed, but you could perhaps try your luck after school hours – around 3pm. The second station, where Jesus is believed to have received the cross, is across the Franciscan Church of the Condemnation.

Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time

Although never mentioned in the Gospels, by tradition it is believed that Jesus fell three times under the weight of the cross. The church that now stands where the first fall occurred is owned by Armenian Catholics, but all pilgrims are free to enter.

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time

Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother

By tradition, it is believed that the mosaic pavement with a pair of sandals is where Jesus met His mother, now located in the crypt of a 19th century Armenian Catholic oratory.

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother

Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother

See the pair of sandals on the mosaic floor?

Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry His Cross

This refers to the biblical episode where Simon was forced by the Romans to carry the cross. It is said that Simon’s sons later became missionaries.

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry His Cross

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Believed to have the hand print of Jesus

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Believing it is His hand I am touching

 

Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

This one I knew since I was young – perhaps from the many reenactments that show the image of Jesus’s face on a cloth. In truth, little is truly known about the real Veil of Veronica, which is believed to be the cloth Veronica used to wipe the blood and sweat off Jesus’s face on His way to Calvary. She was given the name Veronica probably from the Latin words “Vera” (true) and “Icon” (image). The place where it is now commemorated is not open to the public.

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Marking the spot where Veronica is believed to have wiped the face of Jesus

Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time

The uphill walk probably took a toll on Jesus even more, and here He falls the second time. The place is now a chapel owned by the Franciscans.

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time

Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

Based on the Gospel of Luke, Jesus met pious women who wept for Him, and He stopped to give a few words of encouragement, eager to ease their pain even as He was on His way to His death.
[I didn’t realize I wasn’t able to take a photo of this one, but this is beside the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Charalampus and has a sign similar to the others.]

Ninth Station: Jesus Falls a Third Time

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Ninth Station: Jesus Falls a Third Time

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The tenth to fourteenth stations are all in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christendom’s holiest site – being the site where Jesus died on the cross and resurrected. Three Christian communities currently hold services in the church: the Latins (Franciscans), Greeks, and Armenians, although there are actually six Christian religious orders which claim rights over the use of the Church. As you could imagine, the various denominations are not always in agreement, hence the Status Quo agreed in the 18th century during the time of Ottoman Sultan Osman III, which sought to preserve the ownership and responsibilities of religious sites important to Christians, Muslims, and Jews to their then owners/guardians, still holds to this day.

For the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, this meant that none of the six ecumenical Christian orders may use or change or rearrange any property without the consent of the other five. This applied to even the littlest of details; for instance, the presence of what is now called the ‘Immovable Ladder’ below one of the windows above the facade, where it has been since – you guessed it, the 18th century! (No using or moving of property without consensus, remember? I know, this one’s ridiculous and hilarious and sad, all at the same time.)

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

The Immovable Ladder

Another consequence of the Status Quo: it is actually a Muslim (or two Muslim families) who holds the keys to Christianity’s most revered site! Again – no change since the time of Sultan Osman III. But this is actually just a tiny fraction of the larger disputes in the Holy Land among the three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), which has resulted time and again to unspeakable violence since time immemorial.

I recently read that one of the memorials in the Brussels incident said: “In the end, when you see what can be done in the name of God, you wonder what is left for the devil.”

Unfortunately, no truer words have been said.

Tenth Station: Jesus’s Clothes are Taken Away

Mark 15:24: “And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take.”

Station 10 is in a room in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre called Chapel of the Franks. The stairs on the rightmost part of the photo below leads to this room.

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Tenth Station

Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

There is a place in ancient Jerusalem called Golgotha (literally, “place of [the] skull”), just outside the city walls (it is a Jewish tradition that all executions must be made outside the city – seemingly honored here by the Romans), so called because it was a hill resembling a skullcap. This is where Jesus was believed to have been crucified, which makes sense given the Romans’ penchant for executing people on elevated areas for everyone to see – and so serve as warning. 
  Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

The photo is very dark, but if you could see the star with a hole below the pictured frame of the Virgin, that is where the Cross of Christ is said to have been planted.

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Panning out from the previous photo – this is the actual (or believed to be the actual site of) Golgotha, the hill / rock (now protected by the glass cover) where Jesus is said to have been crucified. Quite mind-blowing, really.

Thirteenth Station: The Body of Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross

When Jesus’s body was removed from the Cross, he was laid on this stone to be anointed (hence now called the Stone of Anointing or Unction). Per John 19:40: “So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.”

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

The Stone of Anointing

I placed and prayed over the rosaries I bought here to be blessed. 

Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

In the center of the Church of Holy Sepulchre, in the rotunda, is the Sepulchre itself – and is the fourteenth and last station; for of course what followed is the resurrection, and the beginning of a new world for all of Christianity and the rest of the world.

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Where the tomb of Jesus is housed

Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

This is the marble lid of Jesus’s tomb (!).  What an incredible journey to take. If you have ever wanted make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, now is as good a time as any. 

Travel Tips:

  • Start from the Lions’ Gate
  • The entire rout from the Lions’ Gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is just around 900 meters. Depending on your pace and the queues at the churches, this could be done from less than an hour to three hours. See indicative map below.
Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem

Via Dolorosa Map

  • Operating hours of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:
  • Summer Hours (April-September)
                Sundays                   5.00 am – 8.00 pm
                Monday-Saturday      5.00 am – 9.00 pm
          Winter Hours (October-March)
                Sundays                   4.00 am – 7.00 pm
                Monday-Saturday      4.00 am – 7.00 pm
  • One of the best restaurants in Jerusalem is right by the Fifth Station and is called Abu Shukri Restaurant
  • This is completely doable on your own, although joining one of the tours by Sandeman or Abraham Hostel could be helpful, especially if you haven’t researched enough. Of course, best if you have a priest to guide you as well.
  • You could also combine this with a morning tour of the Mount of Olives area – so that you have the full story from when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday up to His resurrection.
  • There are bazaars, restaurants, ATMs and money changers (check at least three to compare before exchanging your money) in Via Dolorosa and surrounding area – note many of them close during Shabbat (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) – but since the Old City is divided into Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian quarters, you could always find something open even on Shabbat.
  • Anything else you want to know? Comment below and I’ll try my best to answer.

 

——————————————–

* You could also argue that belief in Jesus Christ as man (perhaps prophet or messiah) is different from belief in Jesus Christ as a Divine Being – totally different discussion. But for the record, I am a Catholic, so I believe in the latter.

Also note that this is the traditional Way of the Cross, where not all events is based on the Scripture, but based on centuries of belief and tradition since the earliest pilgrims. There is now what is called the New Way of the Cross which is purely based on Scripture.

Stalking Jesus: Via Dolorosa, Old City, Jerusalem was last modified: March 27th, 2016 by Acrosscities

8 Comments:

  1. I’d never really thought about doing this as a walk. Must have been an amazing experience. Whatever you believe it’s touching a piece of history. Thanks for sharing.

  2. What a powerful experience. I think anyone of any faith could appreciate this. Like you said, whether you believe in his divinity or not, most will agree that Jesus did in fact exist and was cruelly executed and he’s obviously left a tremendous mark on the world. Pretty powerful stuff.

  3. Thanks for putting this itinerary together – I grew up Catholic, and was taught all about the life and times of Jesus Christ, so I’ve always been really interested in visiting Jerusalem.

    Now I count myself as more of a Christian who believes in the message of Christ more than him necessarily being a higher being, though I do believe that there was a historical person who exisited called Jesus. It’s amazing how one man can spark such a following and such a strong devout system of belief, so from that point of view I would also find it fascinating to visit 🙂 Regardless of whether or not you believe in him as being the child of God, he was someone who changed the world in a big way.

    Great post to have read over Easter 🙂

  4. Very interesting! I always love seeing firsthand where things happened in history, so I would love to visit Jerusalem. I like that you can do this tour on your own, but it would be intesting to do with a guide–I’m sure you’d learn some great history along the way! Great post–would love to check this out sometime! Thanks for sharing!

  5. First of all, perfect timing on the post and I hope to visit Old Town Jerusalem some day, too. Second, thanks for the walk down memory lane. My daughters went to a Catholic school and they performed the stations live when they were in third grade. All the school parents came to see it (all grades) and it was a huge dress up event and celebration. 😉

  6. I’ve been reading a lot of posts on Holy Week, and this extensive list with so much history is one of my favourites 🙂 I never thought the name Veronica had such a strong related meaning to her story with the Stations, that was a real surprise! This is a journey I would really love to take. 🙂

  7. Oh it was such an emotional and powerful experience. When we took that route, every station had a message for us. It’s about the life and times of Jesus Christ. I feel privileged to have visited Jerusalem and the place.

  8. I don’t practice religion but it’s refreshing to know that this type of ‘tour’ exists. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.