Via Dolorosa (also known as way of Sorrow, Way of Grief or Way of Suffering). One of the holiest sites. One of the holiest sites in Christendom. A Street, in two parts, within the Old City of Jerusalem, from the first of 14 stations, the climb to the skull hill is steep at times as the road snakes up toward the Holy Sepulchre church. Catholics and Orthodox believe that the church was built on the location of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Some of the stations allow pilgrims to step off the main road. The tradition for pilgrims to walk along the route taken by Jesus began in the Byzantine period (between the 4th to 7th century), with the processions of the faithful from Gethsemane to the Golgotha, via the Kidron Valley, the house of Caiaphas on the slopes of Mount Zion, and northward via the Church of Sophia, which was identified as the side of the Praetorium (today the Fourth Station).
From the 8th to the 12th century the procession began from the room of the Last Supper on Mount Zion and proceeded north of Golgotha. The present route of the Way of the cross was set in the crusader period, in the 13th century. It begins at St. Stephen’s Gate, wand winds its way westward towards the church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is the route Jesus walked from the place of his trial to the place of his crucifixion. There are fourteen stations on the Via Dolorosa, nine along the route and five inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, to commemorate the very last events of Jesus’ life. At these spots, churches or shrines have been erected. The Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh stations are open on Friday afternoons during the procession along the Via Dolorosa.
The First Station: Jesus’s condemnation to crucifixion. At the site where the inner court (the Praetorium- part of the Antonia Fortress) stood in Roman times, stands a Turkish building which is the Omariyya School today. The structure is located north of and adjacent to Temple Mount. It is identified with the Antonia Fortress (of the Second Temple days) where reserve Roman soldiers were stationed, mainly on holidays, to stifle potential rebellious activity that might occur due to the convergence of so many pilgrims visiting the city.
The Second Station: Jesus takes up the cross. The Church of the Flagellation is where, according to tradition, Roman soldiers flogged Jesus and placed a crown of thorns on his head following the pronouncement of his sentence.
Third Station: Jesus falls for the first time. At this station, Jesus fell for the first time under the heavy burden of the cross. A small chapel commemorating this event was built during the 15th century by the Armenian Catholic Church. In 1947-48, the chapel was renovated thanks to donations from the Polish Army.
Fourth Station: Jesus meets this mother, Mary. The Armenian Chapel symbolizes the place where Mary was standing (Stabat Mater Dolorosa) when Jesus passed near her carrying his cross.
Fifth Station: Jesus is helped by Simon, the Cyrene. According to tradition, this is the place where Simon Cyrene was compelled by Roman soldiers to assist Jesus in carrying the cross. Simon was a pilgrim from North Africa who had come to Jerusalem for Passover.
Sixth Station: Veronica wipes Jesus face. According to tradition, Veronica’s house stands beside the Via Dolorosa and it was from this house that she emerged to welcome Jesus and wipe the sweat off his brow. In doing so, his image was imprinted on her damp handkerchief.
Seventh Station: Jesus Falls for the Second Time. This Station marks, according to the tradition, the place where Jesus passed through the Gate of Judgment, along the streets of Jerusalem on his way to Golgotha. Inside the lower chapel is a pillar, part of the late Roman Cardo Colonnade.
Eighth Station: Jesus consoles the women. This station was in an open field, and in this place, according to tradition, Jesus met the daughters of Jerusalem who were crying over his bitter fate. His answer to them was “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children.”
Ninth Station: Jesus Falls for the Third Time. AT this station Jesus faltered again under the burden of the cross. The station is situated at the entrance to the Coptic Church.
Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of his clothes. This is where Jesus was brought to have his clothes removed.
Eleventh Station: Jesus is put on the cross. A mosaic at this station depicts a Roman soldier nailing Jesus to the Cross.
Twelfth Station: The Crucifixion Site. This is a Greek Orthodox chapel whose altar stands upon Golgotha rock. At this place, according to the tradition, Jesus’ cross stood.
Thirteenth Station: Jesus body is taken down from the cross. This is the place to which Mary took the body of Jesus after he was lowered from the cross.
Fourteenth Station: Jesus is placed in Joseph’s tomb. The Tomb is surrounded by a structure built by the Greeks in the 19th Century. In an elegant room called the Chapel of the Angel is a stone altar, which is widely believed to be part of the stone that covered the Tomb.