A trip to the Holy Land to walk Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa seemed like a place I wanted to go during Lent so I did. For those not familiar, the Via Dolorosa (or the “Way of Grief”) is the Stations of the Cross where they actually happened.  If your faith includes Jesus, anything that brings us closer to God is a good thing, and walking the Via Dolorosa certainly did.   If your faith does not include Jesus, perhaps consider this post to show a historic perspective.  The walk up the Via Dolorosa is steeper than I pictured.  Here are some pictures from each station.

Station 1 and Station 2:  Jesus is condemned to death and Jesus carries His cross

Getting to Station 1 and 2, which is by the Temple Mount, was a little dicey and crowded, so I do not really have presentable photos of these two stations.  Instead I will share a few representative pictures (above) to get started:  Biblical quote in the garden of Gethsemane; me in an Old City Jerusalem courtyard perhaps typical of where Pilate questioned Jesus; view of Jerusalem from the East.

Station 3: Jesus falls the first time

Via Dolorosa Station 3 entrance
Entrance to the Polish Catholic Chapel in the Armenian Patriarchate Compound
Via Dolorosa Station 3
Inside the Polish Catholic Chapel

Station 4: Jesus meets his mother

Via Dolorosa Station 4
Above the doorway to the Oratory (room of prayer) for the Fourth Station
Via Dolorosa Station 4 prayer

Station 5: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross

Via Dolorosa Station 5
I believe that the two hands are the symbol of the Franciscan Order.  The Franciscans are the Catholic custodians of the Holy Land.
Via Dolorosa Station 5
Entrance to the Chapel of Simon of Cyrene

Station 6: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Via Dolorosa Station 6
The door to the left is a little chapel called “The Holy Face” because when Veronica wiped the face of Jesus the cloth was imprinted with his face.

The photos below show the peaceful Chapel and its stone alter.

We had a wonderful conversation with a Little Sister of Jesus nun who maintains this Station (and had a beautiful gift shop where the nuns make everything by hand – if you go, please support these nuns by buying from their gift shop).  One question we asked the Sister was, “How do you know these are the right locations for the stations?”  She pointed out that sites were memorialized by the Roman emperor Constantine around 300 years after the crucifixion.  Knowing we were from the United States, she asked how we knew that where George Washington wintered over was the right location (Valley Forge).  She pointed out it our US History was more than 200 year old information, so there was a very good chance Constantine knew where the actual sites were.  Her point was well-made.

The Sister appreciated our interest and curiosity and invited us to go below the chapel to the old chapel and crypt underground.  That was special.

Via Dolorosa Station 6 Old Chapel
Old (underground) Chapel of Veronica

Station 7: Jesus falls the second time

Station 7 has a simple entrance off of a busy street in the Old City.

Via Dolorosa shows steepness
Notice the steepness of the hillside that the Old City is on
Via Dolorosa Station 7 pray

Via Dolorosa Station 7 alter
Lower level chapel

Station 8: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

Via Dolorosa Station 8
The stone in the wall next to the postcards.  It says:  “IC XC NI KA” which means Jesus Christ (IC XC) is Victorious (NIKA).

Station 9: Jesus falls the third time

Via Dolorosa Station 9
I am told the graffiti is “FYO” for Fatah Youth Organization for Palastine

Via Dolorosa Station 9 marker

Via Dolorosa Station 9 entrance
Entrance to St Anthony Coptic Monastery.  Please pray for the Coptic Catholics as they are being regularly persecuted and killed by ISIS.

Stations 10 – 14 are located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Holy Sepluchre
“British” spelling
Church of the Holy Sepulcher entrance
Door that is the entrance to the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  Notice that outside that door is a very busy marketplace on narrow streets
Church of the Holy Sepulcher Courtyard
Courtyard and entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Station 10: Jesus’s clothes stripped off

Via dolorosa Station 10
Off the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Station 11: Jesus is nailed to the cross

Via Dolorosa Station 11
This is Golgotha, Calvary, Place of the Skull

Station 12: Jesus dies on the cross  

Via Dolorosa Station 12 Rock where cross was placed
The rock where the cross was placed
Via Dolorosa Station 12
Alter above where the cross was placed

The pictures above are where the crucifixion cross was found.  The pictures below are the main alter (left) and the Stabat Mater alter (right).

Station 13: The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross

Via Dolorosa Station 13
This is the stone where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus laid the body of Jesus after it was taken down from the cross and prepared for burial.

Station 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb

Holy Sepulchre Aedicule
The line to enter the Aedicule (interior shrine) which contains the Sepulcher (tomb cut in rock) itself
Holy Sepulchre aedicul entrance
Entrance to the Aedicule, which is sometimes called the Chapel of the Angel
Via Dolorosa Station 14 outside
About to enter the Chapel of the Angel inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which holds the tomb of Jesus.  The expression on my face is one of being solemn.  Apologies for picture quality.

Obviously the vestibule and tomb did not look like this in the time of Jesus.  Far behind the Aedicule is a burial site that looks as it probably did back then.  The photo below is taken from the vestibule, and the bodies would have been buried in the tombs (two of them showing).  Once a body was inside, a large rock would have closed the tomb.

Church of the Holy Seplucher Common tomb
I kept thinking of this from the Bible (Mark): “On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed.”

I am waiting to go inside the tomb of Jesus.

Via Dolorosa Station 14 Door to Tomb

The small entrance way goes into where the actual tomb of Jesus is.   The stone on the left (under the glass with candles around it) is called the Angel’s Stone which is a fragment of the stone that sealed the tomb.
Via Dolorosa Station 14 Tomb of Jesus
The tomb of Jesus – a powerful place to be.

To those who of you who are reading and believe, please always keep in mind the following:

On the third day he rose again
in fulfillment of the Scriptures;

*    *    *

If you are interested in this post, I encourage you to go to the Holy Land at some point in your life.  If traveling to the Holy Land seems unattainable consider:

  • A number of cities in North America have direct flights to Tel Aviv for as low as 800 USD round trip (and sometimes less)
  • Reasonably priced accommodations and food are available near or in Old City Jerusalem
  • Think you can’t afford it?  Cut the cable cord and within 2 years you easily pay for your trip (not to mention have more time for reading, hobbies, and exercise).  I believe that walking the Via Dolorosa will say with you longer than anything on cable TV will
  • I felt much safer in Jerusalem than in many other cities of the world 
  • The only really hard part about travelling to the Holy Land is leaving