Walking the Via Dolorosa and Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem: A Guide

There were many things I wanted to do in Jerusalem, and walking the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering, was high on the list. The circuitous route is believed by many to follow the path that Jesus walked, carrying his cross, on the way to his crucifixion. I’m not necessarily a religious person, but I am a history buff, particularly antiquity and especially Biblical history. I don’t know why, that’s just how I roll and I wanted to see the Stations of the Cross.

The best time to walk the ancient path is early in the morning, before the crowds converge on the Old City. When I walked it I was practically alone, but when I returned later large tour groups made the walk almost impossible to navigate. Plus there is a certain solemnity when alone, right after first light as you walk towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. For those looking for a more organized experience, free tours are available Fridays at 3:00 PM led by priests, starting at the Monastery of the Flagellation near the entrance to the Lion’s Gate. This guide though should help anyone navigate the twisty route following the Stations of the Cross.

Station 1 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem
Station 1 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem

Station I
With my guide book in hand, I left the hotel and walked the short way to the Old City and the entrance to the Lions’ Gate, the starting point of the Via Dolorosa. Walking through the gate, the first station is a few yards ahead at the present day Umariya Elementary School. Each station is marked with a medallion indicating the station in Roman numerals. You have to pay attention though, because they are easy to miss. As you walk through the souks in the Muslim Quarter, the first station is on your left. It is believed that it was here where Jesus was condemned to death.

Station 2 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem
Station 2 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem
Ecce Homo Arch
Ecce Homo Arch


Station II

Continue on the Via Dolorosa until you reach the Ecce Homo Convent, location of the second station. It was here where Pontius Pilate gave his famous Ecce Homo, Behold the Man, speech, bound Christ, placed thorns atop his head and gave him his cross. The nearby Ecce Homo archway was part of a larger gateway built by Emperor Hadrian as the entrance to the city Forum. This is one of the easiest stations to find, but keep your eyes open as you continue along the walk.

Station III

As you approach the next intersection, you will turn left, but first look for the third station of the cross located next to the Polish Catholic Chapel. This location marks the first of three times Jesus fell, according to tradition. This is where the Via Dolorosa can get a little confusing, so go slow and keep your eyes peeled for the discs.

Station 3 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem
Station 3 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem

Station IV
After you turn left, the next station will be on your left hand side and is the site where Christ met his mother. Today it is home to an Armenian Orthodox oratory and, according to the sign in the photo I took, a good place to get pizza. Not exactly a solemn feeling, but even a pilgrim has to eat.

Station 4 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem
Station 4 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem

Station V
The Via Dolorosa is not a straight road, and this is one of the biggest twists in the path. On the corner of the next street on your right is the fifth station. This is where the Via Dolorosa continues after the curve. The fifth station is where Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus.

Station 5 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem
Station 5 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem

Station VI
The path ascends at this point and among the souks, on the left is the sixth station, which is a little more controversial. According to tradition, this is the point where Veronica wiped the face of Jesus, creating the Veil of Veronica. The Veil supposedly was imprinted with the image of Christ after she wiped his visage.

Station 6 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem
Station 6 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem

Station VII
Continue walking up through the souks until you once again reach another turn. Before turning left, the colorful red door straight ahead is the location of the seventh station, where Christ fell for the second time. Today the site is next to a Franciscan chapel and the intersection is the site of a major Roman crossroads. Turn left to continue on to the next station.

Station 7 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem
Station 7 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem

Station VIII
This one is a little tricky to find, but after turning left at Souq Khan al-Zeit, cross the market street and ascend the steps of Aqabat al-Khanqah, opposite the Station VIII Souvenir Bazaar. This often overlooked station is where Jesus met a group of pious women and stopped in order to offer them a sermon. As with so many of the stations, this one is adjacent to a religious institution, the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Charalampus. Return to the Souq Khan al-Zeit to conclude your walk.

Station 8 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem
Station 8 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem

Station IX
Station IX can also be a little confusing to find, but it also marks your departure from the Via Dolorosa and entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the remaining stations of the cross are found. Continue south down Khan al-Zeit and you will soon see an entranceway to the outside on your right. Ascend the stairs and you will find yourself at the Ethiopian and Coptic Monasteries. Every major church is responsible for a certain portion of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Ethiopians control the roof, the present location of their monasteries. Continue along the walkway and you will soon come to an archway topped with a cross and the dome of the Holy Sepulchre in the background. On the pillar just beyond the arch is the ninth station of the cross, where Jesus fell for a third time.

Station 9 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem
Station 9 Via Dolorosa Jerusalem
Church of the Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem
Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Station X – XIV
Continue along the pathway through the Monasteries, cross a courtyard on your left and go through the door at the end of the yard. This leads down through the Coptic chapel adjacent to the Holy Sepulchre and the courtyard of the Church itself. Enter the massive Church of the Holy Sepulchre through the large, wooden doors and walk up the stairs to Calvary on your right.  This entire area of the church marks the next four stations of the cross:

  • X Jesus is stripped of His garments (entrance to Calvary)
  • XI Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross (Roman Catholic side altar)
  • XII Jesus dies on the cross (main Greek Orthodox altar)
  • XIII Jesus’ body is removed from the cross (to the left of the main altar and marked by statue of Mary)

The most impressive of the stations in the Calvary balcony overlooking the church interior is the ornate altar built over the Rock of Calvary, where it is believed the Cross stood. Worshipers may touch or kiss the rock, which pilgrims have believed to be the site of the Holy Cross since the 4th century.

Entrance to Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Entrance to Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Calvary, Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Calvary, Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Station XIV
After some moments of reflection, retrace your steps back down the Calvary stairs, pass the Stone of Unction until you reach the rotunda. Under this massive dome is an equally massive black chamber, the aedicule, the tomb of Christ and the site of the final station. Several churches have access to this structure and perform mass at the site daily. The line to enter the strange, cube structure can be quite long, so be sure to visit early. Once you enter, there are two rooms. The first contains a fragment of the stone believed to have sealed Jesus’ tomb and the second is the tomb itself.

14th Station of the Cross  - The Aedicule
14th Station of the Cross – The Aedicule
14th Station of the Cross  - The Aedicule
14th Station of the Cross – The Aedicule

After I completed the Via Dolorosa and visited all fourteen stations of the cross, I wasn’t sure what to do next. I flitted about the Church for a few minutes before deciding that I really couldn’t concentrate, and found a nearby café where I enjoyed fresh pomegranate juice and thought about my morning of historical pilgrimage. Whatever your motivations for visiting Jerusalem and exploring its past, the walk along the pilgrimage path so important to Christians for centuries is a unique way to connect to the storied past of this unusual but endlessly fascinating city.

Rotunda Cupola Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Rotunda Cupola, Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Tags: , , , ,

Subscribe and get my free ebook!

Subscribe to the LandLopers newsletter and get a free copy of my new book, "My Favorite 50 Travel Photos."

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

12 Responses

  1. Erik

    Good work, Matt.

    I’m posting my photo essay tomorrow. My blog has only 1 follower (me) so there’s no competition here!

    Reply
  2. Lisa Bergren @TheWorldCalls

    Excellent recap. I was glad I was with a guide when we did our walk–I think you’d really have to concentrate or summon your inner Indiana Jones to find all these stations! I’m glad you’ve included additional tips to find (though some are in dispute as the right place–of course. Isn’t everything in Jerusalem?) We, too, went early, just as the city was awaking. By far, the best way to go.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      yeah, it wasn’t easy finding them all, but I had a really good map and I was determined :)

      Reply
  3. renita hosler

    What a wonderful piece. I appreciate the pictures with the commentary. Really reflective and I feel like I was there. I found myself wondering about the sounds, light, smells etc. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Makayla Soins

    very good post on the magnificent monuments of Jerusalem which I also visited.

    Reply
  5. Dr P Lam

    It is a very good article. Now, I know more about the Via Dolorosa. Thx.

    Reply
  6. Simon A

    Hello,

    Very helpful and interesting article – thanks. Could you provide the name/place to purchase the map/guide map you use to navigate please? We are going to J next year and want to walk the Via Dolorosa…

    Many thanks,
    Simon A

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      I didn’t use a particular map. I had a Frommer’s guide book and it gave a brief rundown of how to find the start. from there it’s really a matter of finding the symbols, almost like a treasure hunt :)

      Reply
  7. Michelle Harrington

    Thank you for all of the information. Is there a worry about safety here?

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      In Israel? Well, like most places just keep an eye on the news, but in recent years things have been pretty safe over there.

      Reply
  8. Jvoncasm

    I am in the process of preparing a sermon about “A Love Walk”. Your information will be most helpful. Thanks!

    Reply

Leave a Comment