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Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

Israel screams Christianity and thus, if you’re a Christian with a love for traveling, the Via Dolorosa definitely must be on your traveling bucket list. Even more so, you will be able to find monuments and places there that have been explicitly mentioned in the bible. Thus, visiting these places is the way par excellence to go on a Christian journey that will make the bible come alive. One place in particular that you absolutely must visit when you’re traveling in Israel is Via Dolorosa, which is a very religious and authentic street in the heart of Jerusalem.

What is Via Dolorosa?

Via Dolorosa is a street in the middle of the old town center of Jerusalem in Israel and encompasses an estimated 600 meters. It’s a very old and authentic street since it dates back all the way to the 18th century. The street starts from the famous Lion’s Gate (also called the St. Stephen’s Gate) and runs all the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Accordingly, the street runs through the old center of the town. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located on the exact spot where Jesus’ tomb supposedly was. Hence, it’s also where the site of Calvary supposedly was, the site where Jesus is said to have been crucified. Additionally, Via Dolorosa is entirely devoted to Christianity and the Passion of Christ. This is demonstrated by the Latin meaning associated with the street name. That is to say, if you translate Via Dolorosa from Latin to English, the literal meaning refers to a “sorrowful route”.

This meaning refers to the agony that Jesus had to go through during his painful route from Pontius Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem where Jesus was convicted to death to the Hill of Calvary, where he would be crucified. During this journey, Jesus felt very burdened by the heavy cross and even fell under its weight several times. Hence, one cannot but conclude that the Latin meaning and the English translation very accurately represent Jesus’ suffering and torment.

via dolorosa

Why Should You Visit Via Dolorosa?

Jesus’ Route of Agony

Now, the unfortunate truth is that the street plan in Jerusalem has changed significantly over the last 2000 years. This implies that Via Dolorosa no longer matches the Passion of Christ perfectly and that Jesus’s road to travel was slightly different. Nevertheless, visiting this street still holds a very symbolic value and can really make you feel like you’re walking the exact same streets just as Jesus has done thousands of years before you. Many Christians have reported that they feel immense emotions when embarking on this journey and this really goes on to show just what kind of strength and power Christianity derives from this place.

As a consequence, even though Via Dolorosa might technically be a street in Jerusalem, it mainly refers to the route taken by Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to Calvary. This route contains multiple small streets in the old town center and other paths that you can walk on. The route of Via Dolorosa is accommodated with 14 Stations of the Cross, each of which refers to a specific event that happened during Jesus’ agony on his journey to Calvary. For instance, examples include when he was convicted to death by Pontius Pilate, when he falls for the first time due to the burden of the cross, when he meets Mary when he falls for the second and third time, and when he was crucified when he dies and finally the resurrection of Jesus. The last 5 Stations can be found at the endpoint of the Via Dolorosa, which is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Each of the Stations is accompanied by a comprehensive explanation so if you’re looking for more information about Jesus’ journey to Calvary, these explanations are very helpful. Nonetheless, there are also many guides at your disposal that will walk the route of Via Dolorosa with you and provide you with information every time you reach a new monument or Station.

Even though some of these Stations aren’t accessible to the public, walking this route still provides you with the unique opportunity to experience most of them. The Christians and other pilgrims in Jerusalem have been walking this route for centuries now in an attempt to reconstruct Jesus’ journey while bearing the cross in order to get closer to Christ and their faith. Embarking on such a pilgrimage is especially very common each year on Good Friday. (I would not encourage you to do this because knowing God and getting closer to Him takes faith in Him. The bible says, “Apart from faith, it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

However, walking this route would offer you the chance to go on a pilgrimage of your own, which can be considered the most premium way to commemorate Jesus, His life, and His meaning to Christians all over the world. Even more so, when you’re walking the route of Via Dolorosa, at a certain point, you will get the chance to touch the spot where Jesus supposedly leaned his hand against to rest for a bit. Regardless of whether or not this is actually the truth or fabricated by famous legends, the symbolic meaning behind this action cannot be denied.

Beautiful Ruins Underneath Via Dolorosa

As mentioned, the current Via Dolorosa doesn’t match the Via Dolorosa that existed when Jesus was alive. Currently, the street of Via Dolorosa dates back to the Middle Ages, roughly estimated. Yet, underneath Via Dolorosa, you can find ruins that originate from the Roman Times when Jesus actually was alive. These ruins have been excavated for quite some time now and they are there for tourists and locals to enjoy. These ruins actually come from the Via Dolorosa from the Roman Times and thus these ruins accurately can be assimilated to the route that Jesus embarked on while bearing his cross. Even more so, among these ruins, you will find original stones and rocks that originate from when Jesus was alive. As a result, even though the current Via Dolorosa mainly is known for its symbolic meaning, these ruins accurately represent Jesus’ agony and the remains of the streets that he actually walked on.

Visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Another perk of visiting Via Dolorosa is that this gives you the perfect opportunity to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as well, which is located on the highest point of East Jerusalem on the Hill of Calvary. This is the endpoint of the religious route. According to most religious texts, this is the place where Jesus not only was crucified, but it also constitutes the place where he was buried and where he, later on, rose from the dead. So, it goes without saying that this would be the perfect finishing touch as regards your tour to Via Dolorosa. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, you can pay a visit to Jesus’ tomb, although you do have to take into account that there might be a long waiting line there. That is to say, this is a very popular spot, and Christians from all over the world travel to this place to commemorate Jesus Christ.

However, you can be guaranteed that visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre will totally be worth the wait. Besides Jesus’ tomb, you can also visit the well-known marbled, limestone rock that was used to lay Jesus’ body on after he was crucified. It was also used when Jesus was embalmed. When visiting this marbled rock, you not only have the option of physically touching the rock but you are also allowed to kiss it or polish it, whatever you’d prefer.

More in general, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre demonstrates high levels of architectural quality and value. The church can be categorized under the Gothic style and also houses numerous gorgeous subsurface compartments. One tip in this department though if you’re planning to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is that you will be required to wear clothes that aren’t too revealing. Accordingly, this is a sign of respect and should therefore be taken into account at all costs.

Attend an Authentic, Christian Procession

Another reason why you should visit Via Dolorosa is that each Friday, you can witness a very traditional, catholic procession in this neighborhood. If you partake in such a procession, you will be able to experience a true religious parade where numerous Christian practitioners will practice their Christian faith in public. Hence, partaking in such an event will not only make your tour memorable and interesting but will also give you a wonderful opportunity for those pictures and memories for your Instagram and Facebook profiles. Not to mention, the experience will also add an extra layer to your Christian faith and may greatly strengthen the feelings of a Christian community.

On a related note, re-enactments are also sometimes performed nearby Via Dolorosa. More concretely, during these re-enactments, religious people pay a tribute to Jesus Christ by re-enacting certain historical and religious events that happened during his life. So, if you get the chance, you must really watch one of these performances. You will not only be able to get a very unique performance, but you will also feel like you are time traveling and being catapulted back into the religious history. In conclusion, a visit to Via Dolorosa is definitely worth it if you are considering a tour to Israel, the Holy Land.