Via Dolorosa (meaning the Way of Sorrows) is located in Jerusalem’s Old City and is believed to be the very path along which Jesus walked as approached his crucifixion. Christians have been coming to the city for many centuries to walk the same path as Jesus Christ. The road begins at the Antonia Fortress, ancient military barracks built by Herod the Great, and winds its way for about 600 meters to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – the traditionally accepted site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.
Via Dolorosa has fourteen sacred landmarks, known as the Stations of the Cross – nine along the road and the other five within the church. The first and second stations mark the area where Jesus met Pontius Pilate who condemned him to death. The third, seventh and ninth stations depict the spots where it is believed Jesus stumbled along the road under the weight of the cross. Popular tradition says that Jesus met his mother Mary during the walk to his crucifixion, where the fourth station is now marked. The fifth station refers to the episode where Simon of Cyrene carries Jesus’ cross for him, while the sixth relates to the Roman Catholic legend of the Veil of Veronica. The eighth station is a mark of Jesus’ encounter with pious women on his journey.
Each of the 14 Stations of the Cross are marked with a plaque, although the best way to experience them is to join a process held every Friday afternoon, which stops off at each station. The most popular (and busiest) time to visit the Via Dolorosa is during Holy Week, where literally thousands of pilgrims walk the route.