Jerusalem - Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa information is in two sections on this page: The first section shows the route of the Via Dolorosa today and is followed by the possible location of events in Jesus’ Day. It has changed courses many times over the centuries.

The following section is called “Holy Week” and it contains suggestions for your own participation if you are in Jerusalem during an actual Holy Week, including your choice of locations for celebrating the burial and resurrection. 

The Via Dolorosa Today 

The Via Dolorosa is a Western devotion, observed mostly by Latin (Roman) Catholics. Over the years the route has changed and several non-biblical stations have been recognized. In Byzantine times people went from Gethsemane to Calvary (in the Holy Sepulcher) without stops along the way. The present route developed in the 13th and was finalized in the 19th century. The stations found in some Catholic Churches in the United States began as a way for pilgrims to remember their trip to Jerusalem and to bring it home for the other parishioners. The current route is taken by the Franciscans at 3 p.m. every Friday and you can join the walk, or make the walk yourself at any time. The route is marked on many maps although different guidebooks mark different places.

There is a dispute between the diverse groups of Christians as to the proper date of Easter, which means there can be two different Holy Weeks in some years but the Franciscans follow the Western calendar in their choice of Good Friday.

The Via Dolorosa here is arranged by Station number; Event; (scripture); [Location or directions]. The location or description is chosen from various maps and books and reflects today’s common understanding.

Station 1 – Jesus is condemned to death (Mark 15:1 – 15) [courtyard of Omariya School built on ruins of Antonia Fortress]

Station 2 – Jesus receives his cross (Mark 15:16-17; John 19:13 – 17) [Sisters of Zion convent and Ecce Homo Arch]

Via Dolorosa, Station 3
Via Dolorosa, Station 3

Station 3 – Jesus falls for the first time (not in the gospels) [Broken marble column at Polish chapel]

Station 4 – Jesus meets his mother (no gospel reference) A small oratory south of the Armenian Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Spasm]

Via Dolorosa, Station 5
Via Dolorosa, Station 5

Station 5 – Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross (Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26) [Chapel of Simon of Cyrene; Little Sisters of Jesus]

Station 6 – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus (not in the gospels) [Column inserted on wall to left; Melkite Chapel; St. Veronica Church]

Station 7 – Jesus falls the second time (not in the gospels) [Corner of Via Dolorosa St. and Suq Khan Ez-Zeit; [One column of Roman colonnade]

Station 8 – Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:27-31) [Latin cross and Greek letters on wall of Greek Church]

Via Dolorosa, Station 6
Via Dolorosa, Station 6

Station 9 – Jesus falls the third time (not in the gospels) [Up a flight of 28 steps that lead to the Coptic Patriarchate; column at entrance of Coptic Church]

Roof of Holy Sepulcher
Roof of the Holy-Sepulcher

Station 10 – Jesus is stripped of his garments (John 19:23-24) [beginning here all stations are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; Altar of the Nailing of the Cross decorated with mosaic patterns and copper relief]

Station 11 – Jesus is nailed to the cross (Luke 23:33-43) [Altar of the Crucifixion. Below is a hole where the cross is reputed to have been erected]

Station 12 – Jesus dies on the cross (Luke 23:46; John 19:28-37) [Main altar of Greek Chapel]

Station 13 – Jesus is taken down from the cross (John 19:38-40) [Altar of Stabat Mater; bust of the Virgin Mother]

Station 14 – Jesus is laid in the sepulcher (Mark 15:46-47; John 19:41-42) [Chapel of the Angel in the Edicule]

Station 15 – The theology of the age when the stations were begun ended with the burial of Jesus. A more recent theology prefers to include the resurrection and suggests you look up at the ceiling of the dome and see the gold rays.

Probable places in Jesus’ Day 

Over the years the specific stops on the Via Dolorosa have changed and several non-biblical places have been added. The locations below are the closest one can come to the particular route of Jesus, based on archeology and history. Some of these locations close in the early afternoon so it is better to follow this route in the morning. The story begins in the Bible at Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; and John 18, but each account is somewhat different.

Via Dolorosa
Via Dolorosa

When Jesus came to Jerusalem he probably stayed in Bethany with his friends. Some say this was the time when he raised Lazarus and so they celebrate the Saturday before Palm Sunday as Lazarus Saturday. Palm Sunday itself would have taken place on the path down from Bethany to the Old City. Scripture then says that Jesus went into the Temple and chased out the money changers. We do not have the exact location of the Temple from that period but today’s Western Wall is the wall holding up the platform on which it was built.

Jesus probably went back up the Mount of Olives to stay with his friends in Bethany. He would have spent time with the disciples but we don’t know where. The next location would be the Cenacle or David’s Tomb on Mount Zion where Jesus and the disciples celebrated Passover together and inaugurated the Eucharist. 

From there Jesus and the disciples went to Gethsemane. Gethsemane means “olive press” so the Church of All Nations and the Church of St. Mary Magdalene were built over an old olive garden. The disciples who were with Jesus fell asleep and that spot is commemorated by a cave near The Tomb of the Virgin Mary in the same area. 

Jesus was arrested and was awaiting trial as he was taken across the Kidron Valley to a prison, probably in the Antonio Fortress, now El Omarive School. He would have been taken along the roads toward the Citadel for trial. There is an old Roman stone road under the Convent of Ecce Homo. Markings on the lower floor of the Convent of Ecce Homo, are of a game played by Roman soldiers who might have been from the fortress. 

Peter is said to have denied Jesus during his trial before Caiaphas and there is a church called the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (the crowing of the cock). But, since this was supposed to have happened at the house of Caiaphas, the denial would have been located instead on Mt Zion, where the upper class people lived. Evidence that Mt. Zion was the upper-class neighborhood in Jesus day has been found in a cemetery on Mt. Zion where there are remains of first century wealthy homes.

According to some traditions, Jesus would have been taken to the place now known as the Citadel near Jaffa Gate for his trial before Pilate. The custom of the day would have been a setting with a chair on a platform out in the open, so the people could observe and speak. As mentioned above, some of the trial might also have been at the house of Caiaphas on Mt. Zion. 

Worshiping in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Worshiping in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Jesus was taken by the soldiers to be crucified outside the Jerusalem walls. It was the custom to parade prisoners through the city on the way to execution so we don’t know the route. The city was smaller and the walls were closer in at that time. The probable place of scourging and crucifixion could be the present location of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher because that place was outside the first century city walls. Some people believe that the Garden Tomb is actually the correct place for Jesus’ crucifixion. “A Clash of Pieties” in the section called “Holy Week” discusses both places.

There are many stories of the resurrection but St. Mark’s Syrian Orthodox Church claims to be the Upper Room where the disciples waited after the execution. There is also a location on the Mount of Olives for the Ascension and the gospels say that Jesus met his disciples in the province of Galilee.

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