Of all the journeys taken by heroic men in human history, no expedition has been more central to our culture than the one taken by Jesus of Nazareth on his way to his Crucifixion. Like Homer's Odysseus, Christ's last moments - from the time of his trial to the time of his crucifixion - constitute an epic in and of itself. It is no wonder then that Jesus' final walk through the streets of Jerusalem has become a legend for all monotheistic religions.
The Via Dolorosa (Latin for "Painful Way" or "Path of Grief"), undoubtedly one of the most important urban landmarks in the world and arguably the most important site to the Christian world, commemorates Christ's sacrifice and its redemptive powers.
Whether on a Bible Land tour to Israel or a tour to the Holy Land, no Christian tour to Israel can get underway without following Jesus' path through the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Via Dolorosa - Visit Its Fourteen Posts
The rout to Jesus' death consists of fourteen stations, beginning with the Monastery of Flagellation where the trial of Jesus took place and extending towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where, according to the Christian gospels, Jesus was crucified and buried.
It was on the grounds where the Monastery of Flagellation now stands that, in the year 30 AD, Jesus was sent to his death. This location thus marks the first station on the Via Dolorosa. The second station on the path consists of an ancient Roman arch onto which the words spoken by the Roman emperor who sent Jesus to his death are carved. Walking past the ruins of the ancient arch, you will arrive at the third station on the Via Dolorosa, this time commemorating Jesus' first lapse of exhaustion. The third station consists of a small chapel owned by the Armenian Catholic order.
The fourth post on Christ's journey is the spot believed to be the meeting place between Jesus and his mother. These days this historic reunion is captured in the paintings that currently line the walls of the post. Moving on to the fifth post, this is where Christ was approached by Simon the Cyrenian.
The sixth station marks the meeting place of Jesus and the saintly Veronica who whipped his pained face with her scarf. Ironically, while the sixth post is informed by Veronica's benevolence which was to give Jesus some strength, the seventh post commemorates Jesus' second lapse of exhaustion. A pillar now stands erect on these grounds, itself a paradoxical negation to Christ's fallen state.
The eighth post again memorializes the goodness of a passerby. It is here that Christ was helped by yet another pious woman. As is the pattern on the Via Dolorosa, the ninth post symbolizes the place where Christ's body collapsed yet again under the weight of the cross.
The remaining five stations (10th to 14th) are located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and commemorate Jesus' death, the Pieta scene wherein Christ is held by Marry for the last time, and his burial.
The Via Dolorosa - Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Having made it this far on Jesus' odyssey, it is now time to visit the final and most memorable of sites. Once inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre you will be able to follow Christ in his final hours.
When inside the church, be sure to take in the many shrines, chapels and vessels all of which are intimately connected to and symbolic of the life of Christ and heroic death.