Via Dolorosa is a “street” in Old Jerusalem which is held to be the path that Jesus walked while carrying the cross. The street is actually a passageway in a crowded Arab market which sells products both for locals (foodstuffs, brushes, spices etc) and for tourists (crosses and jewelry). Each of the 14 Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa is marked with a plaque, but these small signs can be difficult to spot.
The route of the Via Dolorosa begins near the Lions’ Gate in the Muslim Quarter and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter, covering .3 miles and incorporating 14 Stations of the Cross. Unfortunately, the Via Dolorosa can prove a difficult place for prayer, as it travels through busy streets lined with snack bars and tourist shops.
We wondered lost around the Muslim Quarter and stopped at one point to look at one of the shops that was selling souvenirs, when the man at the shop said to us: “Do you know where you’re standing?” My husband and I looked at each other with confusion and said “No”. He said you are standing at Station 8 of the Cross. When I looked at the wall behind us I noticed a sign on the wall and a cross.
While standing there, a few groups walked by and stopped to say a prayer and observe the sign. All of these places for prayer featured a series of scenes that depict the passion of Christ. Often, I saw people slowly walking along the Stations of the Cross, pausing at each station for quiet meditation and prayer.
The Stations of the Cross are a popular devotion used by individuals and groups who wish through prayer and reflection to follow Jesus Christ on his way to Calvary. Many Christians practice the devotion, but the Stations holds a special significance among Catholics. It’s one of the most important devotions honoring the passion of Jesus.
We followed a few of the Stations of the Cross along Via Dolorosa on our National Geographic Expeditions, The Holy Land tour guided by Mejdi Tours, until we found ourself at the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Station No. 9 is right outside the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the remaining stations of the cross are found inside.