Our first stop for today was the top of Mount of Olives where we were afforded another breathtaking view of Jerusalem. It was very cold and the wind was really whipping - it felt like Chicago winds at its most brutal force. We were all pretty concerned about how the rest of the day would pan out.
We walked over to the Church of Dominus Flevit, which translate from Latin as "The Lord Wept." The Church memorializes the site where according to the Gospel, as Jesus was walking towards the city of Jerusalem, He was overwhelmed by the beauty of the 17-story Second Temple dominating the vista and, predicting its future destruction and the exile and the dispersion of the Jewish people from the area, He wept. Today, in the teardrop-shaped Dominus Flevit church, one would also see mosaics from the Byzantium period.
|View from Dominus Flevit Church.overlooking the Kidron Valley and the Temple Mount|
It is believed that the bedrock in the altar of the church is the site where Jesus said His last prayer before He was betrayed and arrested. Of all the places we visited in Jerusalem, kneeling and praying at the altar while touching the bedrock was where I felt Jesus' presence the most. In the garden next to the church are some of the oldest olive trees in the world.
|The Basilica of the Agony in Gethsemane|
|The entrance into the Church of the Assumption (Mary's Tomb). The Church is built into a cave below ground.|
We were granted a slight reprieve from the cold and walking by our guide Yaakov, who decided to have the van pick us up and take us to Herod's Gate, one of the entry points to the walled city of Old Jerusalem. This saved us from the walk down to the Kidron Valley and then up again to Old Jerusalem. At Herod's Gate, there were a good number of Israeli Defense Forces securing the area. The celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim, commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish People during the ancient Persian empire, is coming up over the weekend and the army is there to avoid any disturbances. The feeling is much like during the last days of Jesus, when the Jewish people flocked Jerusalem to celebrate Passover and the Roman soldiers were there in numbers to prevent any outbreak of unrest.
We walked through the Muslim quarter on our way to the Via Dolorosa or Way of Sorrows, the path that Jesus took during His passion. Today is Friday, the same day that Jesus was judged, scourged, crowned with thorns and carried the cross to Golgotha or Calvary, where He was crucified and died on the cross. But first, we stopped at the Church of St. Anne, which is dedicated to Mary's parents Anne and Joachim, who according to tradition lived on this site just steps away from the Bethesda pools, which in the Bible are associated with healing. It is also believed that Mary was born here.
We are now on our way to follow the sacred Via Dolorosa which starts in the Muslim quarter and ends in the Christian Quarter at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher compound, located on what was Golgotha.
|Via Dolorosa Street sign in Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish. My apologies for my Hebrew and Arabic script.|
The various stations along the way are marked by a gray metal disc with the Roman numerals corresponding to the number of the station. Along the way, the daily life inside the Old Walls of Jerusalem continues on as it did two millennia ago - people buying and selling stuff, praying, doing their laundry, cooking, etc...
Station I was at the place believed to be Antonia where Jesus was condemned to death. There was an awesome view from the crusader style windows of the Temple Mount. The storekeeper at the entrance had to let us in the site so we had to spend 5 minutes browsing his store. We did end up buying a few items.
|Detail of Ecce Homo Sketch|
|Station II - The Church of the Flagellation|
The disc for Station III can be found at an intersection. It marks the first time that Jesus falls while carrying the cross.
|Station IV - Where Jesus met his mother|
Following the twist and turns of the Via Dolorosa, we are slowly climbing upwards and arrived at Station V, where Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus. There is an indentation on one of the rocks on the wall that is claimed to be an imprint of the hand of Jesus.
|Station V - Where Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus|
As the path continuous to ascend, among the souks, we stopped at Station VI - where Veronica wiped the face of Jesus with her veil. It is said an imprint of Jesus' face was left on her veil.
|Station VI - Where Veronica wiped the face of Jesus|
We continued walking through the souks and stopped at a strikingly decorated door trimmed with red. This is Station VII where Jesus falls the second time.
|Station VIII - where Jesus met the women of Jerusalem|
|Station IX - where Jesus falls the third time|
A few more twist and turns and ups and downs following the Via Dolorosa and we enter an area where the Coptic and Ethiopian monasteries are located and follow the walkway to an archway with a cross on top. On the wall to the right is the disc marking Station IX - Jesus falls the third time.
|The Actual page from my Via Dolorosa water color travel journal|
|A page from my journal showing my preliminary pencil and watercolor sketches of some of the various Stations of the Cross|
|The finished journal page of some of the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa (Stations 2, 4, 5, 6, 9|
We went up the steps and entered the Coptic church while a religious service was going on and walked through to the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where the last five stations are located. Some historical text claims that this site has been venerated as Golgotha by early Christians since the crucifixion. A church was first built by order of Emperor Constantine in 325 BC and subsequently, destroyed rebuilt and destroyed again. The current church was built in 1149 by the Crusaders.
We entered the church through large wooden doors, then walked up the stairs to the right to Calvary to the locations of the following Stations - Station X - Jesus is stripped off His garments, Station XI - Jesus is nailed to the Cross, and Station XII - Jesus dies on the cross. This area is crowded with pilgrims and lines are long to get closer to the altars and kiss or touch the site of the Holy Cross.
After spending some time in prayer and reflection, we went down the steps from Calvary to Station XIII - Jesus is removed from the cross , at the Stone of Unction where according to tradition Jesus was laid after He was removed from the cross.
We continued to walk inside the church, where under a massive dome is an ornate square structure called the Aedicule. This is the location of the tomb of Jesus and the site of the final station, Station XIV. It can take up to over two hours to enter the burial chamber as the lines are very long. We opted to skip the line and visit other areas inside the church compound such as St. Helena's chapel, an old burial chamber near the Jacobite Chapel similar to what Jesus would have been buried in, Adam's Chapel, etc. This is a massive complex with churches and chapels from different Christian denominations.
|The Church of the Holy Sepulcher|
Even though, it is difficult to imagine how this route was more than 2000 years ago, walking the Via Dolorosa was still a very humbling, emotional and spiritual experience, for no matter how hard the walk is for anyone, it can never compare to what Jesus went through. We were blessed that day in many ways - although it was cold, it did not rain, there was no rioting on the streets and even as our feet and body ached all over, we survived the Via Dolorosa by God's grace. Jesus went through unimaginable anguish, pain, sorrow, humiliation and excruciating death in order to save us. I, for one, am thankful and pray that I am deserving of His sacrifice.
1 Peter 3:18 - For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
Our day ended up early today in preparation of the observance of Shabbat, a time of rest and prayer for the Jewish people, which would start at sundown today and end at sundown tomorrow, Saturday. It was very quiet where our hotel is located as mostly Orthodox Jews reside around the area. We had Shabbat dinner at the hotel and all the lights were extinguished at some point in time in our hotel room. Luckily, we were already sleeping.
Note: All sketches were painted on an Arches Carnet de Voyage Travel Book with artists grade Schmincke and Daler Rowney watercolors.