Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Via Dolorosa

On our first morning in Jerusalem we headed straight for the Old City and walked around the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Armenian Quarters.  The most meaningful place that we have visited so far in the Old City is the Via Dolorosa -- the traditional path that Jesus took as he bore the cross to his crucifixion.  The Via Dolorosa begins at the place of Jesus' trial and condemnation by Pontius Pilate and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the site of his crucifixion.

Signs marking the Via Dolorosa and the fifth station of the cross where the Romans compelled Simon to bear Jesus' cross

So far in the Holy Land we have been surprised by the churches built on the site of almost every Biblical event.  We have found it difficult to get a sense of how things may have been 2,000 years ago (with the notable exception of Bethany Beyond the Jordan).  The Via Dolorosa also has changed quite a bit from how it must have been back then.  After all, today it winds through the Christian and Muslim Quarters of the Old City, whereas back then it would have been outside the city walls.  But even if it looks different today, walking through the streets crowded with pilgrims was an experience that we will never forget.

A Franciscan procession along the Via Dolorosa

As we reached the end of the Via Dolorosa, we entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the traditional site of the Hill of Calvary. Let's just say that's where things got a little crazy.  The church has narrow stairs and passageways and a bunch of fervent worshipers.  Put the two together and you get some pushing and shoving.  Add in the power struggle between the six Christian orders that share control over the church and you have kind of a wild place.  There is even a ladder above the main entrance to the church that has been there since the 18th century because the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches don't agree on moving it.

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where the crucifixion of Jesus occurred

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