This is the Way of the Cross, traditionally believed to be the route followed by Jesus from the Praetorium (the Roman Judgment Hall) to Calvary, which was the scene of the Crucifixion. Over the centuries, millions of pilgrims have come here to walk the way that Jesus took to his death. Each Friday at 3pm, priests lead a procession for pilgrims along Via Dolorosa (starting at the First Station of the Cross in the Monastery of the Flagellation at the tower of Antonia, not far from the Lion’s Gate). Large wooden crosses are carried by some of those in the procession and prayers are said at each of the 14 Stations of the Cross. The Via Dolorosa begins in the Muslim Quarter, in the northeast corner of the Old City, and winds its way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter.
The Sanctuary of the Condemnation, where Jesus was scourged and judged, marks the first Station of the Cross. It’s open daily from 8am to noon (also 2–6pm Apr–Sept and 1–5pm Oct–Mar). As you leave the sanctuary to follow the Via Dolorosa, keep in mind that each Station of the Cross is marked by a small sign or a number engraved in the stone above the spot. Paving stones on the Via Dolorosa itself have been set in a semicircular pattern to mark those stations directly on the street. Other stations are behind closed doors; knock and a guardian, monk, or nun will probably be there to open up for you. There’s a restroom opposite Station 3.
The following is a quick guide to the Stations of the Cross:
Station 1: Jesus is condemned to death. Station 2: Jesus receives the cross (at the foot of the Antonia). Station 3: Jesus falls for the first time (Polish biblical-archaeological museum). Station 4: Jesus meets his mother in the watching crowd. Station 5: Simon the Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross. Station 6: A woman named Veronica wipes Jesus’s face; his image remains on her cloth. Station 7: Jesus falls for the second time (at bazaar crossroads). Station 8: Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem. Station 9: Jesus falls for the third time (Coptic Monastery).
The five remaining Stations of the Cross are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Station 10: Jesus is stripped of his garments. Station 11: Jesus is nailed to the cross. Station 12: Jesus dies on the cross. Station 13: Jesus is taken down from the cross and given to Mary. Station 14: Jesus is laid in the chamber of the sepulcher and from there is resurrected.