Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Walk the Via Dolorosa, Jesus’ way to death

Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa passes through the places where, according to tradition, Jesus walked from the moment of his condemnation to his burial. An ancient Christian apocryphal text says that the first person to walk this road was his own mother, Mary. Lady Egeria, the famous 4th century pilgrim, also mentions it.

But is this the road that Jesus actually walked? There may be no satisfactory answer to this question. In Jesus’ day, the city was very different. The Old City of Jerusalem dates from the Ottoman period. The city itself was destroyed and rebuilt many times-by the Romans, the Persians, and the Crusaders. The original layout of the streets was not even remotely the same as it is today.

For example, the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre is now in one of the city’s neighborhoods; in Jesus’ day, the site was outside the city walls. For similar reasons, and for centuries, Catholics in Jerusalem held different opinions about where Pilate’s tribunal was actually located.

The route we know today was finally established in the 16th century. Of the 14 stations of the Via Dolorosa, nine are outside and five are inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.

The route begins at the former Fortress of Antonia, near the Gate of the Lions. Of the original gate, only an arch, the floor of the courtyard (Litostrotus) and the water cisterns built by Herod remain. This building housed the Roman garrison that guarded the city.

The exact spot where Jesus was condemned to death is not part of the route, as it is overlooked by the Muslim school of El Omarie. The Via Dolorosa begins a few meters from the school, in a small complex built by the Crusaders that includes the Church of the Flagellation and the Church of the Condemnation, both administered by the Custody of the Holy Land.

From here, pilgrims take El Alam Street to the junction with El Wad Street (the old Tiropeon), where the third, fourth and fifth stations are located: the First Fall, the Encounter with the Mother and the Encounter with the Cyrenees.

Turning to the right, along Ma’alot Street, pilgrims will find the stations of the Second Fall, the Veronica, and the encounter with the women of Jerusalem. Once they reach the Holy Sepulchre, next to the crypt of St. Helena, is the ninth station (Third Fall).

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the hill of Golgotha, are the stations of the Stripping of the Robe, the Crucifixion and the Death of Jesus. Descending from Golgotha, the burial takes place in the famous marble edicule.

The historical impact of this short route is truly remarkable. When, after the loss of Jerusalem, pilgrimages became almost impossible, the Pope asked the Franciscans to “rebuild” the Via Dolorosa everywhere, so that people could share the experience of “virtually” walking this pilgrimage, wherever they were. And so one of the most popular Catholic traditions was born: the Stations of the Cross.

In fact, the impossibility of traveling to Jerusalem led Catholics to create several Via Dolorosa in the streets of their own cities. This is how the famous Holy Week processions that attract millions of tourists every year to Seville, Malaga or Ayacucho began.

Without fear of exaggeration, those painful 600 meters are among the most influential short distances in the history of Western culture.

This post is also available in: Español Italiano

Leave a Comment