The Via Dolorosa, also called “Way of Sorrow” winds along narrow street of Jerusalem’s Old City, leads from the Ecce Homo Convent to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the traditional route Jesus followed carrying his cross from Pilate’s Judgment Hall in the Antonia, to Calvary Hill, or Golgotha, the site of the cruxifixction. Along this route are the “Fourteen Stations of the Cross“. Each station marks an event of sacred memory, with chapels for reflection, convents and monasteries of devotion, and the sacred basilica for commemoration.
“Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium” (John 18:28). Jesus is condemned to death, and on Friday afternoon, when Franciscans started the devotion of the Via Dolorosa, the courtyard of Omariye College is crowded. The minaret located at this place called Antonia Tower marks the site of the Roman Fortress where Jesus was condemned.
“Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him”(John 19:1). “Then he handed Him over to them to be crucified”(John 19:16). Jesus takes up the Cross. At this place, two Chapels; the Chapel of the Condemnation and the Chapel of the Flagellation. These two Franciscans chapels are standing over the Lithostrotos where Jesus was condemned to death.
“And the soldiers led Him away, into the hall called the Praetorium”, and clothed Him with purple and plaited a crown of thorns and put it on His head”(mark 15:17). Here was the the beginning of the Passion of jesusHe was condemned at the Lithostrotos and began the Way of Cross. Under the Ecce Homo Convent, we can find a large stone pavement, probably the Roman Forum of Aelia Capitolina built by Hadrian (2 C A.D) and from where jesus starts his walk. An arch still stand there, originally part of the triumphal gate of Hadrian’s Aelia Capitolina and where Pilate presented the tortured Jesus to the crowed saying “Ecce Homo” (Behold the Man).
“He who would console me and give me back my life is far from me.”(Lamentations 1:16). At the corner on El-Wad Road stands a Polish Chapel. At this place Jesus falls under the Cross for the first time. A high relief above the entrance, by Thaddeus Zielinsky shows Jesus falling under the cross.
“All you who pass, look ans are: is any sorrow like the sorrow that afflicts me?” (Lamentations 1:12). Tradition says that Mary stood by the roadside in order to see her son. At this place, a little Armenian Catholic chapel shows when Jesus meets his Mother, and makes us remembered their grief and sadness.
“They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross”(Mark 15:21). The fifth station is marked by a Franciscan oratory at the site where the Via Dolorosa ascends steeply to Golgotha.
“May the Lord’s face shine upon you”(Numbers 6:25). At this place Veronica wipes the sweat from Jesus’s face. At this place you will find the Chapel of the Convent of the Little Sisters of Jesus. It was beautifully restored in 1953 at the traditional site of Veronica’s house. There are ancient remains of the monastery of Sts. Cosmos and Damian, built in 546-563.
“With their affliction, He was afflicted. In His love and His pity He redeemed them”(Is. 63:9). At this place, Jesus falls for the second time. A great Roman column, housed in a Franciscan chapel marks Jesus’s second fall, just as He was leaving the city through a gate. Tradition tells us that His death notice was posed her. Hence the Christian name for the site “Judgment Gate”.
“Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me. Weep rather over yourselves and your children. For if green wood is treated thus, how will the dry wood be treated?”(Luke 23:28). At the eight station Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem. This station is marked by a Latin Cross on the wall of the Greek Monastery.
“I have come to do your will, O God.”(PS 40:8). Jesus falls for the third time. A roman column marks this station. Close by are the apse and roof of the Holy Sepulchre Basilica, a reminder that Jesus collapsed within sight of the place of his Crucifixion.
“From the sole of the foot to the head are bruises and sores and bleeding wounds.”(IS 1:6). Jesus is stripped of His garments. The stairs of the Holy Sepulchre Basilica are leading up to the Chapel of the Stripping of Jesus’s Garments.
“They have pierced My hands and My feet. They have numbered all my bones.”(PS. 22)
“He came to the Place of Golgotha (Skull in hebrew) where they crucified Him.”(john 19:17). In the main latin shrine of the Holy Sepulchre Basilica, wonderfully redecorated with mosaics in 1938, the place where Jesus was nailed to the cross is marked within sight of his Mother.
“Jesus cried, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? (Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani?), once more uttering a loud cry, Jesus gave up His spirit.”(Matt. 27:50). Jesus died on the Cross. At this place, a greek altar, ornamented in Eastern style, stands over the Rock of Calvary. It is here the the crosses of Jesus and the two thieves were erected. In the bedrock beneath is a large crack caused by an earthquake that took place on the day Jesus died. The little altar between the main ones on Calvary is adorned with a statue in wood, fashioned in the 16th century and sent from Lisbon in 1778. It recalls the grief of Mary and symbolises the eternal grief of mothers at the death of their children.
“Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council, and a disciple of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took the body of Jesus down.”(Luke 25:53). The Mother of Jesus was there when He was taken down from the Cross. At the same place, the Stone of the Anointment were they put Jesus after his death.
“And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean, linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out in th rock. Then he rolled a stone before the entrance of the tomb.” (Matt. 27:59).
This is the Christendom’s most sacred place. The site of Jesus’s burial and Resurrection, housed in its own chapel, is the focal point of the entire Holy Sepulchre Basilica, erected by the Crusaders on Byzantine foundations, dating to the time of Constantine the Great.
Via Dolorosa, a place where Churches venerate a mystery of Christ’s life, a place sanctified by the prayers of the Faithful.