It’s probably the one most important thing for any Christian pilgrims to do while visiting Israel. The Via Dolorosa walkthrough in Jerusalem, which in a nutshell, is walking through the route that Jesus took carrying His cross from the place where He condemned guilty to the place of His crucifixion.
From the last journal where I shared my story from the exciting exotic Temple Mount area which triple-claimed by three different religion as their holy site. This post is about where we go next after that last brief at the Golden Gate. If you haven’t already, please refer to that post.
We’re walking to the place that is probably the most well-known top thing to do in Jerusalem Old City, especially if you are Christian. I’ve been expecting the so-called “Via Dolorosa” since the very first time I enter this city, Jerusalem. That’s the first thing comes into my mind, what is Via Dolorosa looks like?
Before I start to share my personal story doing this Via Dolorosa walkthrough, let me share this map below marking the itinerary for today. To help you with a better understanding of what I went through.
Let’s Start The Via Dolorosa Walkthrough
It’s about 5 minutes walk from the Golden Gate to the street called Via Dolorosa. I didn’t know where exactly they are called the Via Dolorosa street. Where are the signs and stuff? All I notice was the typical view from the streets of Old City in Jerusalem.
It was when Mr. Dani told us that here we are, the Via Dolorosa. I’m not really blown away nor excited about this street when it comes to what I expected and what I saw in front of my eyes. I thought it would be “more”. But, wait…
Based on the brief that I heard the Via Dolorosa route start from Lion’s gate in Muslim Quarter, which I have visited before when we went to the Pool of Bethesda. Stretching 500 meters and 14 stations along the way. I guess let’s just jump to the stations while I share my personal thoughts about it :
The First and Second Station
Our first stop in this Via Dolorosa walkthrough was the Monastery of Flagellation. According to the story, this is the site where Jesus met and condemned by Pontius Pilate. This event is held to have occurred at the site of Madrasa al-Omariya, 300m west of the Lion’s Gate, which still used as a school and can be entered with permission at specific times (Mon-Thu, Sat 2:30-6; Fri 2:30-4pm).
There are three Roman-Catholic churches at this site taking their names from the events happened. The Church of the Condemnation and Imposition of the Cross where Jesus sentenced to death, Church of the Flagellation where Jesus was beaten by the Roman Soldier, and Church of Ecce Homo, the place of the Ecce Homo speech, the “Behold The Man..” speech by Pontius Pilate. Right after he crowned Jesus and present Him to the crowd for His crucifixion.
We cannot take a look at the inside of the Church of the Flagellation because there was a service held at that time. So all we did here was just listening to the story from Mr. Dani and take a toilet break. Most of us bought the Via Dolorosa brochure or map kinda thing they sell to us at the entrance of this complex for $1 each.
Now this is one of the stations which I think I missed. Although each station marked with a number on a plaque, it’s small and easily slipped off our eyes.
The Third Station
As with this third station, the site where Jesus fell down the first time carrying His cross. Marked with a relief sculpture above the door of a small Polish chapel at the junction with El Wad ha-Gai street. Totally missed it.
I didn’t see any signs marking the third station, and nor I bother to ask our guide. At the beginning where we start, the street was not as crowded as now or as we reach this junction. The streets are full with mostly pilgrims, tourists, snacks, shops, you name it. It is a very busy street.
While I’m behind everyone, I was trying to take footage and some photos documenting this Via Dolorosa walkthrough. Once I catch up with them, it’s the fourth station already. That’s how I missed the third.
The Fourth Station
Although it is not written in the bible, Jesus did meet with His mother, Mary. It was at this fourth station where they commemorate it at the Armenian Catholic Church.
This Church marked the fourth station of Via Dolorosa walkthrough have multiple names. The Our Lady of Sorrows Church, The Church of Sorrows of Mary, Armenian Chapel of Our Lady of The Spasm, and Church of St. Mary of Agony.
There was a local selling bread right in front of the fourth station sign. I saw lots of people bought his bread. It was pita bread, a typical Israeli’s cuisine. A double layered flat bread traditionally served in Middle Eastern cuisine.
The church was not yet opened at that time, but there’s already a lot of crowds gather outside literally almost blocking the street waiting to enter this site. There is a remarkable 5th-century-floor mosaic, which includes an outline of a pair of sandals, said to be Mary’s footprints.
See the crowd? If my pilgrim group met with other pilgrim groups, this is what happened. Most of the streets here in Via Dolorosa are pretty narrow, so it’s least expected that you walk in group side by side considering space for people to move.
Being with more than 30 people in a group, I can see how Mr. Dani struggled to keep us together while at the same time trying to brief us a story. But I can tell he’s kinda given up when we’re at this 4th station. It’s just impossible to hear him.
Mr. Dani did ask whether we want to wait and enter the church or we want to just move to the next station. I think at this point everybody was like, “Na ah, let’s just keep moving..“.
Which then turned out to be the right decision. There’s another group of pilgrim, a catholic group coming from where we were to our direction. They’re bigger in number and they’re walking with prayer and doing some traditional ritual. I guess that’s the proper way to do the Via Dolorosa walk?
The Fifth Station
So we keep moving to the next one, the fifth station. At this station, Simon of Cyrene takes Jesus cross and carries it for Him. A chapel was built and named after him, Chapel of Simon of Cyrene.
This fifth station located right at the corner where we should make a right turn for the next stations. And this is where I put myself into trouble.
If you can see that corner chapel with the “V” written at the entrance. That’s Chapel Simon of Cyrene. I was the last person in the group walking behind everybody. I kinda wanted to take a footage of the Catholic group doing their prayer while doing this Via Dolorosa walkthrough.
So I slow down to wait for that catholic group and I took a position right next to that chapel, the fifth station. Took my time waiting just a couple of seconds for that group to arrived and pray at this fifth station.
I can still see my group walking away from this station trying to avoid this Catholic group in a narrow street, even some of them still taking pictures. So I was like relax knowing that I can still see where they are going.
Then as we’re moving forward to the next station, this is where I lost sight of my group. I was stuck in the middle of this Catholic group, they were walking pretty slow when doing some prayer and singing all along. Big mistake…
The Sixth Station
It goes uphill from the fifth station with a narrow street. The sixth station commemorated with the Church of The Holy Face. This is where St. Veronica wiped Jesus face with her handkerchief, which is known as Veil of Veronica. However, this church is not open to the public.
I didn’t get any picture because I missed it, again. Judging by the situation, I was panicked losing sight of my group, stuck in the middle of a group of strangers. I cannot break my way through the praying Catholic group, can I? It will be rude. Sigh…
You know what, rather than worrying for my group, might as well I enjoy walking with this group to the next station until I can pass through them. That’s my brilliant idea at the moment. You gotta make the best at the moment, right?
The Seventh Station
When I reach the seventh station of this Via Dolorosa walkthrough, I can finally break my way through that Catholic group and try to find mine. But this seventh station located right in the middle of a major road junction. So, I don’t know where to go nor can I see anyone from my group.
This is where Jesus fell for the second time, marked with a Franciscan chapel. The photo above was taken after I wander around trying to find my group. I tried my luck going random ways, left, right, forward, even backward to some previous stations. Nothing…
I just prayed and surrender my fate. Lol!
Trying not to make a fuss about it, acting cool I keep walking around. But this time, I’m not looking for my group anymore. I’m looking for that Catholic group again.
The Eighth Station
My logic was pretty simple at that time. I will just be looking for that Catholic group again and going together with them. They’re going through the stations anyway. In the end, I will reach the last station and hopefully meet my group there, if they’re waiting for me.
So I found them at the eighth station, where Jesus encounter a pious woman and is able to stop to give a sermon. This station marked with a cross and a greek word “NIKA” (victory) on the wall of a Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Charalampus.
The Ninth Station
We reached the ninth station where Jesus fall the third time. The fall is not actually located on the Via Dolorosa, instead, being located at the entrance to the Ethiopian Orthodox Monastery and the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of Saint Anthony, which together forms the roof structure of the subterranean Chapel of Saint Helena in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
You can see on the wooden sign written St. Helen Coptic Church. This site marked with a Roman pillar. This station is kinda hidden in my opinion, it’s a confusing way to this ninth station.
Going from the ninth station to the left passing through a door to an open area, like a rooftop.
This time, that Catholic group was stopped at the corner and they took a really long time praying and preaching a sermon. I think to myself, if I’m waiting for them it will be too long. So I decided to find the way myself.
I didn’t know that the ninth station is the last one for the Via Dolorosa walkthrough that happened outside. The next stations are all inside the Church of Holy Sepulchre. Which I have to go through some narrow door, going down through a dark room until I reach the entrance courtyard of The Church of Holy Sepulchre.
How could I know? It was literally going down like a similar thing we did when visiting the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem. No signs, no clue, no whatsoever. And there was nobody going to the next station from this rooftop where we stop. I really lost this time.
Tried to ask some people on the street, they point to the direction where this rooftop is. After the ninth station, you go left. But I saw no way, it was a dead end. Until finally a group of people coming from the ninth station with a local guide and they are going through that door where I finally find my group at the entrance of The Church of Holy Sepulchre.
The Tenth to Fourteenth Station at The Church of The Holy Sepulchre
Station 10 to 14 are all inside this Church. The Church of The Holy Sepulchre also known as The Church of The Resurrection, which is the holiest site for Christianity. It contains two sites where Jesus was crucified and the Aedicule (where He is said to have been buried and resurrected).
Just to make sure, here’s how to get here from the ninth station :
To get to the entrance from Station 9, head south down Souq Khan al-Zeit to the end, turn right into Souq al-Dabbagha and go straight on to the doorway at the end of the street.
That picture above is the stone of anointing right at the entrance of the church. Where Jesus is annointed before burial. To give you the idea of the stations inside the church :
- Station 10: Jesus is stripped. Top of the stairs to the right outside the entrance.
- Station 11: Jesus is nailed to the cross. Upstairs just inside the entrance, at the Latin Calvary.
- Station 12: Jesus dies on the cross. Rock of Golgotha in the Greek Orthodox Calvary.
- Station 13: Jesus is taken down from the cross. Statue of Our Lady of Sorrows next to the Latin Calvary.
- Station 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb. Inside the aedicule on the main floor.
It was pretty dark inside the church. The atmosphere it creates is amazing, I’m not sure how to put it in words. The church designs, the elements, people praying, I literally said, “wow…”.
The photo above is the “Christ Pantocrator” mosaic located at the eastern side of the church. Housing the main altar of the church in the Greek Orthodox Catholicon (once the crusader structure). Here’s some images to give you the idea what it looks like inside :
The Rotunda and Aedicule
The Rotunda is located in the center of the Anastasis, beneath the larger of the church’s two domes. In the center of the Rotunda is the chapel called the Aedicule, which contains the Holy Sepulchre itself.
The Aedicule has two rooms, the first holding the Angel’s Stone, which is believed to be a fragment of the large stone that sealed the tomb; the second is the tomb itself.
Note that you will have to queue to enter inside the Aedicule. It seems that this Aedicule is what attracts people the most. The queue last at least 15 minutes. Here’s a GIF to walk you through inside the church.
This church was surely the best church I have ever been while visiting Israel. The feeling was surreal. Be sure to check this site out if you do the Via Dolorosa walkthrough.
We spent almost 2 hours at this church. Everybody gather at the courtyard once they’re done with the church. I took some picture of a group of tourists, one of them trying to shoot me with her DSLR.
Once everybody was done, we proceed to the next place, The Garden Tomb. But I will save it for the next post because this is already a long post.
Every Friday, a Roman Catholic procession walks the Via Dolorosa route, starting out at the monastic complex by the first station. The procession is organized by the Franciscans of this monastery, who also lead the procession.
If you feel like doing the Via Dolorosa walkthrough, I would suggest you do so. It’s one of the best experience in Jerusalem I had besides the Western Wall.
Thank you for staying with me in this long post. I hope you really enjoy reading through this post as much as I enjoy to share it.
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