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The Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem Old City

What is the Via Dolorosa?

As the bible tells us, Jesus walked from Jerusalem to the place to which he was crucified. Before he was crucified, Jesus travelled near to the Lion Gate within the Old City, where Pontius Pilate judged and condemned him. Following this, Jesus then followed the story the bible tells us today. He took his cross and dragged this through the streets of Jerusalem. Today, the place called Golgotha, is where crucifixions would have taken place. The Holy Sepulchre is a church built to commemorate the death of Christ. The Via Dolorosa is the final journey that Jesus took to his place of crucifixion.

The Cross and the Stations

Along the Via Dolorosa, Jesus stopped at 14 separate points along this journey. Each different stop has been labelled as a Station of the Cross. Travelling along the Via Dolorosa, there are plaques or marks that have been placed along the journey to point out the different points in which Jesus stopped and help to guide the route that Jesus travelled. Due to the significance of these stations, there have been chapels built at some of these points to commemorate the stops.

Christianity was legalized in the 4th century, where it was first allowed for people to openly worship God as a Christian. At first, it became a requirement that all pilgrims must retrace the Way of Sorrow (another name for the Via Dolorosa). Although the route has been amended on a few occasions, the present stations that stand today were set around the 13th century following the Crusader period.

It wasn’t until the 16th century that the name Via Dolorosa came into effect, which translates from latin as The Way of Grief. The route that can be followed today is the same route as followed by the Byzantine pilgrims. For Christians, this is an immensely holy experience as it follows the same route that the son of God followed, making this an incredibly significant part of the history of Christianity.

Travelling Along the Via Dolorosa

Christian pilgrims follow the Via Dolorosa, praying at each station to pay respects to their God. The route follows some busy market streets, overseen by large, ancient stone walls. There are tour guides who will lead groups through the route, sharing knowledge and wisdom of the different stations. It has been known that some religious groups try to recreate the same journey that Jesus endured, by taking a large heavy cross with them and sharing the journey between them, taking turns in carrying the cross.

At the end of the journey stands the Holy Sepulchre, the church built around the execution place and burial chamber of Jesus. This church is home to the final five stations, where the last is the place of Jesus’ burial. A service to honour the journey taken by Jesus happens every Friday at 15:00, where Franciscan Custodians of HJoly Place travel the journey of the Via Dolorosa, ending the journey at the Holy Sepulchre. During Holy Week this journey can be very popular, where thousands of different people come to follow the Via Dolorosa.

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