Via Dolorosa – Israel

Via Dolorosa is a Latin phrase meaning “Way of Suffering.” It is a route within Jerusalem that is meant to represent the path Jesus walked on while bearing His Cross from the Praetorium to Calvary. As such, it is also called the “Way of the Cross.” Many people who come to Jerusalem will walk on this as a kind of pilgrimage. 

Historical Significance

No one knows for sure what route the Romans would have taken in leading the Lord to Golgotha. The present route at best only dates back to between 132 – 135AD. The Via Dolorosa of today follows the main east-west road that Hadrian laid down when he was re-engineering Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina. In Roman city planning, such east-west roads were referred to as the ‘Decumanus Maximus.’

Catholic and Orthodox pilgrims commemorate what they view as the ‘14 Stations of the Cross’ as they walk the Via Dolorosa. In some ways, these Stations of the Cross illustrate what has happened to the theology and practice of both the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches. Some of the stations commemorate events mentioned in the Bible. Other stations are not mentioned in the Bible at all. Thus, the Via Dolorosa represents a mixture of Scripture with the traditions of men.

Scriptural Significance

The Stations are as follows:

  1. The trial before Pilate (Matthew 27: 11 – 24; Mark 15: 1 – 15; Luke 23: 1 – 25; John 18: 28 – 19: 16)
  2. Jesus takes up the Cross (John 19: 16 – 17)
  3. Jesus falls for the first time under the cross’ weight (No Scriptural support)
  4. Mary views her Son carrying the Cross to Golgotha (No Scriptural support)
  5. Simon the Cyrene is compelled by the Romans to bear Jesus’ Cross (Matthew 27: 32; Mark 15: 21; Luke 23: 26)
  6. Veronica wipes Jesus’ face with a cloth that is said to have left an image of His face imprinted on it (No Scriptural support)
  7. Jesus falls for the second time under cross’s weight (No Scriptural support)
  8. Jesus speaks with the lamenting women of Jerusalem (Luke 23: 27 – 31)
  9. Jesus falls for the third time under the cross’s weight (No Scriptural support)

The remaining Stations occur in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

  1. Jesus is stripped of His robe (Matthew 27: 33 – 35; Mark 15: 24; Luke 23: 34; John 19: 23 – 24)
  2. Jesus is crucified atop Golgotha (Matthew 27: 33 – 35; Mark 15: 22 – 24; Luke 23: 33; John 19: 17 – 18) 
  3. Jesus dies on the Cross (Matthew 27: 50; Mark 15: 37; Luke 23: 46; John 19: 30)
  4. Jesus is taken down from the Cross (Matthew 27: 57 – 61; Mark 15: 42 – 47; Luke 23: 50 – 56; John 19: 38 – 42)
  5. Jesus is laid in the Tomb (same as Station 13)

Each of these 14 Statons is marked with a plaque or a sign. Over the centuries, the route has actually changed several times. Even today, there are alternate routes that are used by differing groups. Anglicans believe that Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb (an area to the North of Jerusalem) are the correct locales where the Crucifixion and subsequent Resurrection of the Lord took place.

Regardless, the Via Dolorosa used by Catholics and Orthodox alike, takes you through the heart of the city. Bustling shops and vendors comprise much of the area that is walked through.