Via Dolorosa: Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). (Matthew 19:17)
The Via Dolorosa is the route Jesus took from the guilty ruling of Pilate to his death on the cross. “Via Dolorosa” means “way of grief” in Latin. The pilgrimage begins near Lion’s Gate in the Muslim Quarter and ends at Golgotha (now where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre sits). It is 500 meters long and incorporates 14 stations (or monumental sacred events) along the way. It is hard to meditate while walking the Via Dolorosa, as it runs through busy streets lined with gift shops and snack bars.
Each of the 14 Stations of the Cross is marked with a plaque, but these signs can be hard to spot. Most pilgrims and visitors find it easier to join the Friday procession or other guided tours that call attention to the sign markers. The Friday procession takes place at 3pm and is guided by the Franciscans.
The stations are as follows: (1) Jesus is condemned to death. (2) Jesus took up his cross to carry it all the way to Golgotha for crucifixion. Station (3) is where Jesus fell for the first time under the tremendous weight of the cross and after a night of constant physical abuse. (4) This station marks where Mary first saw her son enduring the agonizing walk to his death. (5) A man named Simon from Cyrene was forced by a Roman soldier to then carry Christ’s cross down the tortuous path. (6) Legend has it that a woman named Veronica wiped the face of Christ. His holiness left its imprint on her handkerchief. (7) Jesus fell yet again. (8) Christ addresses the women of Jerusalem. Station (9) is where Jesus fell the third time on the Via Dolorosa. (10) Humiliatingly, Christ is stripped of his clothing.
The last four Stations of the Cross are found in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, not really along the Via Dolorosa. Number (11) is the nailing of Jesus to the cross. (12) Christ actually dies on the cross. (13) and (14) mark Jesus being removed from the cross and laid in the tomb.
Via Dolorosa History:
The pilgrimage along the Via Dolorosa began as soon as Constantine legalized Christianity in the 4th century. Byzantine pilgrims walked the route, but they didn’t stop along the way to view the Stations of the Cross.
The route of the Via Dolorosa had changed by the 8th century. It then began at the Garden of Gethsemane, and then headed south to Mount Zion. The Via Dolorosa of the 8th century then doubled back around the Temple Mount to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. During the Middle Ages, there were even two rival routes!
From the 1300s to the 1500s, Christians followed the Franciscan route, including eight stations and beginning at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Soon after this, the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross were developed in Europe. The Franciscans incorporated six more stations to accommodate European travelers to the Via Dolorosa.
Alternative routes are followed by those who hold differing opinions on the historic location of the events. Anglicans believe that Jesus would have been led north toward a Garden Tomb, but Dominican Catholics think the route should start at Herod’s Palace near the Jaffa Gate.