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VIA DOLOROSA, OLD CITY .

The Via Dolorosa (Way of Grief) is the traditionally accepted last route trodden by Jesus when led to his crucifixion. Altogether there are 14 Stations of the Cross marking significant events along the route. It begins in the northeastern section of the Old City. The road was re-paved recently and includes resting areas for pilgrims.

Take a bus to the Rockefeller Museum (Nos. 1, 23, 27, 42 or 43). Walk downhill towards the Mt. of Olives, turn right into Jericho Road and then first right up to Lions' Gate (see ``Places to Visit'').

The second building on the right is the Crusader Church of St. Anne, built over the birthplace of Mary and named after her mother. Walk down the steps on the right to the very cool. stone-walled crypt, the actual site of the birth.

To the northwest of the church you'll see ruins dating to the time of Jesus. They include the two Pools of Bethesda where Jesus is believed to have cured the paralytic. The remains of a Byzantine basilica are here. Also among the ruins are a ritual bath and caverns dating from Hasmonaean times.

Continue along Al-Mujahideen Road, turning into King Feisal Street, second on the left.

This is off the Via Dolorosa but there are two fine examples of 13th-century Mameluke Madrasahs. The first is the Madrasah el-Dawadaria. Note its double vaulted gate. The other is the Madrasah e-Salania. Observe the decorations suspended above the coloured facades. Looking like hardened putty-work, it is the characteristic feature of the Mameluke theological seminaries. Return to the main road and walk up the stairs to the El-Omariye School. This is the 1st Station of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa. Open only at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoons for the Franciscan procession along the Via Dolorosa.

The colossal Antonia Fortress stood here and Pontius Pilate was living in it when Jesus was brought before him for a private trial in the courtyard. If you climb up the steps to the building on the south you will get a fine view of the Temple Mount through the bars of the windows.

It is from Station I that the Franciscan fathers begin their weekly pilgrimage along the Via Dolorosa at 3 p.m. on Fridays.
Station II is opposite the school back on the Via Dolorosa. Walk inside the Franciscan monastery. On your left is the Chapel of the Condemnation, with Roman flagstones thought to be from the Antonia Fortress and four huge columns inside. On your right is the Chapel of the Flagellation where Jesus was scourged. There is a beautiful stained glass window behind the altar. In the courtyard there is a model of Jerusalem that includes the Second Temple. Between the two chapels is the Franciscan Faculty for Biblical and Archaeological Studies.

The next street on the left, Bab el-Ghawanim Rd., takes its name from the gate opening onto the Temple Mount at the end.

After the junction of these two streets come to the Ecce Homo Arch and the Convent of the Sisters of Zion on your right. Early tradition held that Pontius Pilate stood here and thundered ``Ecce Homo!'' (``Behold the Man!'') However, we now know that the arch was constructed by the pagan Emperor Hadrian to commemorate his victory over the Jews led by Bar-Kochba.

The Church inside has part of this triple-arched triumphal gate behind the altar. See the model of the Antonia Fortress in the lecture hall. Below the convent is the Lithostrotos, where Jesus was publicly tried and where the Roman soldiers mocked him as a false king and prophet. The low vaulted arches rise above the great stones of the Antonia pavement.

 

The blocks of stone were grooved to prevent horses from slipping - it is a ``Via Romana,'' perhaps the true Via Dolorosa. They also bear the scratchings by Roman legionnaires playing ``the game of the king.''

Before you get to the Lithostrotos have a look at the giant water cisterns below the paving. They hold water, just as they did during the days of Jesus. Flavius Josephus gave us their name: Strouthion. Adjacent to the convent is the Greek Orthodox Praetorium, with a sign over the door reading, ``Prison of Christ.'' Steps lead down to the grottoes where Jesus is said to have been imprisoned. The Via Dolorosa leads into El-Wad Road, a main Old City artery that eventually leads to the Western Wall. Turn left and, almost immediately, on your left, you will see Station III.

This is where Jesus fell for the first time. The small Polish chapel marking the spot has a relief sculptured above the door. Carved by Thaddeus Zielinsky, it portrays Jesus falling under the weight of the Cross.

The small oratory near the entrance to the Armenian Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Spasm marks Station IV, where Jesus met his mother, Mary.

As you walk round the corner, to the right, following the Via Dolorosa, there is a small Franciscan Oratory. This is Station V, where Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry the Cross. Notice the deep impression on the wall near the door.

 

Legend attributes it to the handprint of Jesus, who supported himself here.

The Via Dolorosa now climbs steeply towards Calvary. Pass El-Beiraq leading left and just before the overhanging arch arrive at Station&orm VI, the Church of St. Veronica, on the left. Here Veronica wiped the face of Christ. The Church has a candelabrum above the stone altar. Below are the remains of a Byzantine monastery.

As you arrive at the junction with the bustling Souq Khan e-Zeit, observe Station VII notched above the entrance to a Franciscan chapel facing you. This marks the place where Jesus fell the second time. There was a city gate here 2,000 years ago, and Christians call this entrance Judgement Gate, following the tradition that Jesus' death notice was posted to it.

Walk uphill along Khanqa Street until you reach Station VIII opposite the ``Station VIII Souvenir Bazaar.'' There is a Latin cross on the peeling yellow walls of the Greek Monastery of St. Charalambos, built over the site where Jesus consoled the women of Jerusalem.

Retrace your steps, turning right into the Souq Khan e-Zeit. Most of the shops along here date from Crusader times.
Ascend the stairway on your right. You will soon come to a Roman column resting against a wall behind some steps. The pillar is over Station IX where Jesus fell for the third time.

On your right is the Coptic Orthodox Queen Helena Church. Ahead of you is the Coptic Orthodox Patriachate within the Monastery of the Sultan. The community has occupied this site since 1219. Beyond the steps on your left is the Ethiopian Compound. It is a flat terrace and is on the roof of the Chapel of St. Helena, within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre below. The African huts are inhabited by Ethiopian monks. The olive tree enclosed by a wall is claimed by the monks to be the bush where Abraham found the ram caught in a thicket.

Return to the Souq Khan e-Zeit. A few steps away, to the right, is the Russian Church of Alexander Nievsky, with excavations dating to Herod's time. Ring the bell. There is an entrance fee. When you leave the church, turn right into Dabbagha Road and left into Muristan Road. A few metres down is the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, built in 1898 in the Crusader style. The view from the bell-tower is one of the best in the Old City.

Back on Dabbagha Road you will see an arcade on your left. This is the Muristan (Persian for ``hospital''), where the Crusader Order of the Hospitallers, the Knights of St. John, had their hospital and headquarters. This is now a Greek bazaar known as Souq Aftimos, with an ornamental fountain in the middle built by the Greek Orthodox in the 19th century. It is a good place to buy leatherware and embroidered bags and Oriental dresses.

After browsing around, return to its entrance and turn left to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the remaining five Stations of the Cross.

This holiest shrine in Christendom stands over the hill of Golgotha, derived from the Hebrew word for skull, because 2,000 years ago it resembled a skull or bald pate, with no trees on its summit.

The Empress Helena built a church here in 335 CE, over the ruins of Hadrian's Temple of Venus.

It was destroyed by the Persians in 614, restored, attacked a number of times under Moslem rule, and rebuilt by the Crusaders wrecked by the Khwarizms, the 13th-century Egyptian mercenaries, it was also damaged by fire in the 19th century. It has been restored on various occasions, right up until the present. The facade and bell towers were built by the Crusaders.

As you enter notice the red slab of stone on the floor, facing you. It is the Stone of the Unction and covers the spot where the body of Jesus was anointed.

Turn right, past the stone benches that remain from the tombs of Crusader kings. Further on is the Chapel of Adam where the cleft in the rock is said to have been rent by the earthquake when Jesus died (Matthew 27:51).

Retrace your steps and turn right, up the stairs to the top of Calvary. On the right hand side are Stations X and XI, where Jesus was stripped of his garments and nailed to the Cross. This is the Chapel of the Franks.

On the far left is the Greek Orthodox chapel around Station XII. This is the place of the crucifixion and is richly decorated with precious metals, statues and suspended lamps. If you put your hand through the silver disk below the altar you can feel the top of the rock of Calvary.

Jesus' body was taken off the cross at Station XIII, marked by the small Franciscan Altar of Stabat Mater Dolorosa, between the two chapels. The wooden statue was fashioned in the 17th century and sent from Lisbon in 1778.

Descend to ground level and bear right. Go down 13 steps, past the crosses carved on the walls by Christian pilgrims. The Chapel of the Discovery of the Cross is reputed to be the place where St. Helena discovered the original cross during her stay in Jerusalem. The bronze statue of St. Helena is on the left-hand altar.

Working your way around the right hand side of the church, you arrive at another flight of steps leading down to the Armenian Church of St. Helena. Byzantine pillars support the Crusader vaulting.

Back at ground level you will see the Chapel of the Division of the Raiment on your right, next to the steps. The legionnaires distributed the clothes of Jesus here. Continue right of the steps and curve left. Pass the seven arches, remains of the Byzantine Church, and then turn left to Station XIV, the Holy Sepulchre.

The 19th-century edicule is the focal point of the church. It is topped by an onion-shaped cupola. The vestibule is the first of two chambers. This is known as the Chapel of the Angel. Here an angel is said to have sat on a stone and proclaimed the resurrection. The Sepulchre is through an arched doorway. A marble slab covers the burial place of Jesus in a chamber only 2 metres square.

When you exit, turn to your left and pass the Stone of the Unction near the entrance to the church.

After leaving the church, turn right, up St. Helena Road and right again along Christian Quarter Road. This is a good place to buy religious handicrafts and trinkets. Turn right into Khanqa Street and left into Souq Khan e-Zeit. It is one of the main thoroughfares in the Old City and a fascinating place to bargain and buy from the crowded stalls of the bazaar.
Souq Khan e-Zeit leads into Damascus Gate Road and out of the Old City. If you turn right at Christian Quarter Road, and right at David St. you will come out at Jaffa Gate.

 

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