Christmas Day in Jerusalem — The Via Dolorosa or Way of the Cross

Today we walked the Via Dolorosa, or the way of the cross. A good Sunday activity. Our hospice is right by the 3rd station of the cross, so we were in the right place to begin. We went to the first station, then followed them all the way to the end today (14 stations the pilgrims visit), finishing at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Down the street from us we found the station by where the Antonio Fortress once stood. Many believe this is where Jesus was taken. A elementary school now stands on that site. A shopkeeper near by noticed us and invited us to go into the school (hoping we’d shop afterwards in his store). He took us up some steps and into the school that was full of kids at recess. On the far side of the play area were barred windows looking out over Temple Mount with a beautiful view of the Dome of the Rock. It was easy to imagine the Roman soldiers looking down on the temple from here. Oh, how I wish we could watch the replays of that last week of Jesus’s life and see where things really happened. There are many claims and not much sure evidence.

This is where the Antonia Fortress looked down on Temple Mount.

The school today:

Next we went across the street to the place with the original pavement from the Fortress. We saw the games carved into the stone where the soldiers played and where Jesus appeared before Pilate and was condemned to death. The Fortress was destroyed in 70 AD. There was a reverence there, in that place, with heavy feelings of hard things happening there.

The Antonia Fortress is the structure in the lower middle part of this map of Jesus’s time with the Pools of Bethesda to the right and the temple to the left.


We visited the church that supposedly stands where the crown of thorns was placed on His head  and walked under the Ecco Homo Arch (“Behold the Man”).

The Ecco Homo Arch

Shops along the way

Other stations we visited included a prison some claim held Barabas and the other thief. The prison had pits down under ground where prisoners were chained, maybe Jesus to.

You can see where they were chained to the walls or the rock ceilings.

Back on the street again, as we continued walking the stations of the cross.

At each of the 14 stations, Claire read to us from her phone with wifi about what was celebrated or revered in that place.  Today wasn’t very crowded. Christians were home celebrating Christmas, so we walked the streets freely without crowds. Fridays are the traditional days that 100s of pilgrims come to visit the stations.

Round brass markers like this designate each of the 14 stations.

We ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was quite full of people. We watched as they surrounded the stone where they say Jesus’s body was lain to be prepared for the tomb. People were rubbing clothing or cloth on the stone, or rubbing oil on it and praying. Lots of weeping and emotion. Interesting to see. We wandered through the maze of that church watching people, devout people, who were there to cry over Jesus. The church is filled with hanging lights and incense burners, ornate decor, and the trappings of different churches who have sections of ownership.  Most of those worshipping here are Catholic or Orthodox.

There were lines of people wanting to touch the stone of Calvary and the Tomb, buried in ornate decorations so that you could hardly focus on what was there. All interesting and ornate.

This is where some believe the cross stood where Jesus died.

Here’s a good photo by Gerd Eichmann of the whole church which is hard to see from the ground:

Here’s a nice summary from Wikipedia:

The Via Dolorosa, often translated ‘Way of Suffering’ is a processional route in the Old City of Jerusalem. It represents the path that Jesus would have taken, forced by the Roman soldiers, on the way to his crucifixion. The winding route from the former Antonia Fortress to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — a distance of about 600 metres (2,000 feet)— is a celebrated place of Christian pilgrimage. The current route has been established since the 18th century, replacing various earlier versions. It is today marked by fourteen Stations of the Cross, nine of which are outside, in the streets, with the remaining five stations being currently inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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