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VISIT JERUSALEM: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Via Dolorosa

Karin is an award-winning writer, editor and publisher of Christian and secular works in Europe and the USA.

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Church of The Holy Sepulcher

If has long been thought that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the very site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the place of his burial also known as the sepulcher. Controversy that this could be a possible site was generated for years by the fact that the church is within the city walls, whenever all crucifixion's and all burials would have occurred outside the city walls. This argument has been laid to rest as during the time of the 2nd temple this site would have been outside the city walls. Founded by Helena, mother of Constantine who had a vision which led her there, it is also believed that St. Helena discovered the true cross where Jesus was crucified at this spot. It has since become one of the worlds most Holiest sites.

The church is home to the Roman Catholic Church, the Greet Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox. On entering you are immediately taken aback by how dark the church is and there is an overwhelming smell of incense. The Rock of Calvary is the most visited part of the church, traditional thought argues that Adam's skull was buried under the site of cross and because of this there is The Chapel of Adam, another more interesting train of thought believes in actual fact that King David buried the skull of Goliath in Jerusalem and it was at this place that Jesus was crucified. Whatever the truth, what is for sure and undisputed is that Jesus Christ was crucified in Jerusalem following a mock trial...

The Church Within

Sited also within the church walls in the famous 'Stone of Anointing.' This is believed to be the site where Jesus' body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea. Within the church there are various different chapels and areas that are designated as 'Holy' and recently a tomb was uncovered and is believed to be that of Joseph of Arimathea, though yet to be proved. Most of these areas or sites make up some of the stations of the cross, significant, historical places that denote Jesus' journey to the cross and his passion. They are also known as The Via Dolorosa and are the most holy of places for Christians to visit. You will witness many groups on a daily basis, making the pilgrimage and be prepared as the narrow streets and steps can be crowded with people singing and praying. Therefore it is safe to say that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is one of the most visited and busy Holy sites in Israel, especially at Easter.

Over the years there have been disputes, however, what is totally undisputed about this church is that there are some of the world's greatest treasures held within it and whether you are a 'believer' or not you cannot escape the fact that millions of people are drawn to this same spot year after year. What draws them? Or better still compels them to visit? Well it is the belief that unites them - love and sacrifice...

Where Can I Stay?

There are various places in and around this area with walking distance, here are just a few:

Karin's Tips

Here again are some guidelines:

  • Again wear a large sun brimmed hat on hot days and take water as you may need to queue in the heat!
  • Sunscreen - a must and remember to reapply every hour!
  • Keep in mind, walking around the stations can be difficult. There are cobbled streets and they go up in levels but there are rest areas.

The Via Dolorosa

The Stations

The Stations of the Cross or better known as the Via Dolorosa (The way of sorrows) is a' must experience' on the calendar of every visitor whether or not you are a pilgrim. The 'stations' developed over time naturally whenever pilgrims made their way to the Holy Land and wished to walk the route that Jesus took in the last hours of his life here on earth.

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Each station represents a significant event that took place during the Christ's journey to the cross and to somehow 'share' or connect to His suffering. It is interesting to note that only 8 out of the 14 have a scriptural foundation - stations 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9 are not included in scriptures, although they are written about their actual locations are unknown. However, having said that, I believe that if the other stations are known then one can assume roughly where the other events took place.

The Fourteen Stations of the Cross

  1. Jesus at The Garden of Gethsemane
  2. Jesus betrayed by Judas and arrested
  3. Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin
  4. Jesus denied by Peter
  5. Jesus judged by Pilate
  6. Jesus scourged and crowned with thorns
  7. Jesus takes up his cross
  8. Jesus helped by Simon to carry his cross
  9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
  10. Jesus crucified
  11. Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief
  12. Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other
  13. Jesus dies on the cross
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb

Some consider that there is a Station 15 - The place of the resurrection of Christ. Whatever your reason for walking the Via Dolorosa, one thing you cannot escape, this was the route that Jesus Christ took on His way to the cross just over 2000 years ago and the spiritual significance is enormous...

The Passion

The Passion of the Christ movie by Mel Gibson depicts the passion of Jesus like no other has and it could be said that it has given a new generation of people a sense of the reality of the suffering of The Christ.

The last few days of Jesus' life is noted at each station and has been a site of pilgrimage for centuries, each person encountering their own personal encounter of Christ's suffering as they walk through the streets, some carrying wooden crosses themselves. Whenever you witness the powerful emotions generated by this part of Jerusalem, you realize that whether these places are the exact spots or not, that does not really matter in the end, what matters is that over 2000 years later Jesus Christ's impact on the world is still being sought after, experienced and still changing lives for the good...


The Via Dolorosa

Karin's Tips

  • The tour is extremely long 4-6 hours and there are few places to sit
  • Take plenty of water, and - you know I'm goin' write it - sunscreen and wear a hat
  • Make sure you are modestly dressed to get into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
  • This is a totally unique experience a 'once in a lifetime' event so make it count and take a tour!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Karin McBride-Chenoweth


Liz Westwood from UK on September 22, 2021:

This is a fascinating account of these interesting places. That tour is certainly lengthy, but it sounds very worthwhile.

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