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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
58 thoughts on “Walking the Via Dolorosa and Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem: A Guide”
Good work, Matt.
I’m posting my photo essay tomorrow. My blog has only 1 follower (me) so there’s no competition here!
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.
yeah, it wasn’t easy finding them all, but I had a really good map and I was determined :)
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.
very good post on the magnificent monuments of Jerusalem which I also visited.
It is a very good article. Now, I know more about the Via Dolorosa. Thx.
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…
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 :)
Thank you for all of the information. Is there a worry about safety here?
In Israel? Well, like most places just keep an eye on the news, but in recent years things have been pretty safe over there.
To: Michelle Harrington: My husband and I have gone the last two years (2014-2015) in Oct-Nov and there has not been a trace of danger around us. Not a trace, we have gone with Kali Tours who have excellent Tour Guides and receive us and stay with us through the airport process.
To: Michelle Harrington: My husband and I have gone the last two years (2014-2015) in Oct-Nov and there has not been a trace of danger around us. Not a trace, we have gone with Kali Tours who have excellent Tour Guides and receive us and stay with us through the airport process
I am in the process of preparing a sermon about “A Love Walk”. Your information will be most helpful. Thanks!
Great to hear!
Interesting walk , good advice , found it to be extremely busy , glad we had a guide
I used your post and a map to walk the via dolorosa. Very helpful..thanks!
J’ai toujours eu ce rêve d’aller au pays de Jésus, ressentir tout ce qui a pû vivre, découvrir des lieux de l’histoire. Mon seul petit souci est que j’ai un léger handicap physique et personne avec qui faire le voyage pour le moment. J’ai été émerveillée par les photos, le récit de chaque station.Merci
de rien and merci!
Hi Matt. Thanks for this great little website. I am battling terminal cancer and I cannot travel anymore, but your visual guidebook is a blessing and an uplift. Thanks, this was especially a good one as I have wanted to see the Holy Land but was fearful of the troubles over there and always put it off. Now sadly, I cannot, but this was a superb quick way of seeing the major Christian walk of Jerusalem.
Looking forward to experiencing “the walk”. Distance will be added to other paths which we hope to make to celebrate the #s of my years on this earth. Yes, it is my birthday – mileage marker. Thank you for your tour, we will stay close to your experience.
looking good! thank you! I’ll be doing this tomorrow and will take your journal with me:)
Thanks Matt for this wonderful recap! My husband and I are celebrating our honeymoon/one year anniversary on a month-long world trip starting in England, and continuing onto France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, and finishing in Dubai before heading back home to Hawaii. We did our own little “pilgrimage” of the stations yesterday in the Old City and had quite a spiritual journey. I wanted to share it with friends and family on FB, but didn’t know all of the church names and areas. Your insight and post REALLY helps a ton and I’ll be sure to give you credit for your hard work! Many thanks and keep traveling! (BTW, your profile pic looks very similar to the rooftops in Dubrovnik, Croatia atop the Wall. Any chance that’s where you snapped your shot?) :D
Please keep in touch via email or fb. I’d love to bounce travel ideas and tips off each other! Aloha!
have been back from via dolorosa a month now. im thinking to write articles and this posting help me a lot to re memorize all the stations an what happened there. i was walking in group so sometimes i skip one two little things. thanks. my redards.
Nice of you to put such a detailed guide. Thank you. I don’t know when I will do this walk but I will save your info.
Thank you so much for your post!! It’s Valentine’s Day, I am in Jerusalem with my husband; what better way to express love than by doing this pilgrimage today… We are off with your wonderful reference points, thank you! ?
We’re going in about a month and your explanations and directions are wonderful. Thanks so much for the instructions and images.
Just got back from Jeruselem where I took that walk. Very nice Matt.
this tour, Matt, gave the meditation I sought for the fourth week of Lent. TU, and God Bless.
One day i wish to go to Jerusalem. Im trying to safe as much as i can, my heart longs to see this holly place before i die
what is the total distance Jesus was and also how far Simon of Cyrene travel with Jesus
My mother named me Dolorosa
I was brought up Roman Catholic… always wondered about my name as a young girl …
as I’ve growing into a woman I love my name.
it means so much to me
and yes I have yet to take the walk of the Via Dolorosa ….
God Bless You All ?
We did it with a tour guide at about 12 noon. It was very busy and rained that day for the first time in months! Care needs to be taken on wet days as it is extremely slippery underfoot. Glad we had the guide though, his knowledge of the stations and his way around the souks made a very moving journey very informative and pleasant.
Was wondering about the distance and elevation of the route. Any idea?
Hi! Thank you, your text help me a lot. I will go to Israel on 13th August with my family and I was with many doubts about the Via Dolorosa.
Thank you very much for your posting, it was a wonderful reminder of my walk there last month. May Jesus draw you closer and closer.
Great post and a very helpful guide. My daughter and I even walked twice. However, there is a change in the location of the III disc. Now it is the extreme left edge of the facade of “ARMENIAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHATE” with depiction of ‘Christ falling with the cross and III STATIO’ inscribed. I find the Station IX most difficult to locate. To ascend Calvary now, one has to go through a Coptic chapel at the right end of the courtyard. At the back of the pews is a dark passage paved with stone-edged steps. All the way to the top exit, walk across the enclosed courtyard where you can see the dome of the Holy Sepulchre on your left. Go towards the end wall and on the pillar at the right side, turn and you will see a large wooden cross , disc IX and a gold plate, “Station No.9 St. HELEN COPTIC CHURCH”. The sister who led us, told me that this is the top of Calvary. Jesus was crucified up here. Groups of tourists are not led up here. They are shown the stations inside of the Holy Sepulchre. Now I can understand why.
Hi Matt, what Map were you using? I may have missed it sorry If you already stated here in the blog elsewhere.
Thanks for your effort. This will help when I go in search of the Stations.
Interesting reading. Planning a trip from South Africa. Any South Africans did this trip?
Thank you, Matt, for this invaluable info . We are going in May/June – basing ourselves for 6 nts in the Old City.
Logan, I’m from Cape Town – we are going in May/June.
I’m preparing our church newsletter and wanted to include information on the Via Dolorosa. Your pics and information will be very helpful and they have also peaked my interest in going to Jerusalem and actually walking this walk. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Matt. I liked your Stations of the Cross Via Dolorosa pics. I’ve been to Jerusalem 3 times now & walked the Via Dolorosa every time. I recently came across some pics taken by Louis de Clerq (French) in 1859-60 (they were displayed in a courtyard at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa). They, too, are of the Stations of the cross & I’ve looked at them alongside yours to get a then & now (old & new). Thought I’d let you know Matt. Thanks. Phil
I missed one of the stations in my notes so your blog was most helpful. I just got back from Jerusalem yesterday. I saw above that someone was concerned about safety. As always you need to be alert but it was quite safe when we were there.
Love you this guide you put together. I would like to put together something a little simpler — just a slideshow showing all 14 stations of the Via Dolorosa — for the website I work for, Aleteia.org. Would it be possible to use your images if I were to give you credit? Thanks so much! Zelda Caldwell
I did appreciate your posting. Glad to see and read it very meaningful to me because I was there last October 2017 and even stayed at the Eccentric Homo convent; and guess what we did walked always everyday that Via Dolorosa going to hear mass at the Holy Sepulcher. Like to go back there again with my family. Lovely and amazing post. You’re an angel to open the minds of the people learning the way of the cross of Jesus. You did a very good job. More power and post more for good
Matt, I went; I saw; I truly did not completely understand until I followed your pictures & comments! Thank you for your efforts in sharing your walk of the Stations of the Cross with others! Keep On Traveling!!!!!
Absolutely wonderful and detailed description and photos of the Via Dolorosa in Old City of Jerusalem. It’s very helpful and informative for someone like me who wish to travel to this city and retrace Christ’s Passion. Thank you for sharing, Matt.
hey Matt! How long did it take you to walk this route?
I walked the Via Dolorosa 5 weeks ago. At the time our tour group did it, it was packed, so it was slow moving all along it. Although the Via is only approx 600m/700yards long, allow about an hour to walk it all. Once inside the Holy Sepulchre Church, where Stations 11 to 14 are, allow at least another 60 minutes to visit the Crucifixion site/Calvary Rock and queue to enter the Tomb of Jesus, depending on time of day. We were there around lunchtime, took 50 minutes to queue. The queue for the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem took us 2 hrs.
I am extremely interested in walking the path. Please advise whether you can assist. Thank you so much.
The safest and best way to visit Jerusalem and other Holy Land places is by guided tour.
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