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Way of the Cross, Via Dolorosa, Praetorium, Antonia Fortress - January 12, 2004

View of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre from the courtyard of the Ethiopian monastery (Deir es-Sultan). In the foreground is the cupola of St. Helen's Chapel. In the background to the left is the cupola of the Chapel of Melchizedek right above Calvary, while the one in the center (with a cross on it) is the cupola of the Greek Catholicon. From this point, we will make our way back to the Praetorium. Click on the photo to enlarge.


The path of the present Way of the Cross (in red). Stations X-XIV are found inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Number XV marks the place of the Resurrection.
I. Jesus is condemned to death.
II. Jesus receives His Cross.
III. Jesus falls the first time under His Cross.
IV. Jesus meets Mary His Mother.
V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry His Cross.
VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
VII. Jesus falls the second time.
VIII. Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem.
IX. Jesus falls the third time.
X. Jesus is stripped of His garments.
XI. Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
XII. Jesus dies on the Cross.
XIII. Jesus is taken down from the Cross.
XIV. Jesus is laid in the Tomb.
General sketch of the Way of the Cross according to Friar Elzearius Horn (1741), depicted with the main monuments along the route. The scenes around Calvary are set in a more dramatic way just outside the city walls of 1st century Jerusalem.

A pillar with a coarsely painted cross is placed between the gates of the Ethiopian monastery and the Coptic Patriarchate to commemorate the third and last fall of Jesus.

On its way to Calvary, then in the open fields, Jesus met a group of women from Jerusalem, who were wailing for him (Lk 23:28).

Medieval pilgrims were keen to visualize Jesus falling under the weight of his cross while exiting through one of Jerusalem's gates, which they called the Gate of Judgment. The Letter to the Hebrews (Heb 13:12) mentions the sufferings of Jesus outside the city gate.

A massive pillar from the Roman period stands as a reminder to the traveller of the ancient gate and walls.

Pilgrims here were used to point out Veronica's house. According to one tradition, this person is the same as Beronikes, the hemorrhaging woman from Capernaum (Mk 5:25). Apocryphal books relate how Jesus left his features impressed upon a linen cloth, which she had employed to wipe his blood covered face.

On this crossroad (or possibly in another nearby one), pilgrims have set the episode of Simon of Cyrene, the man compelled by Roman soldiers to take Jesus' cross on himself (Lc 23:26).

A tradition preserved in some of the Apocryphal Gospels maintains that the mother of Jesus could see from a side road his son dragged to the place of execution. The Apostle John caringly strived to hinder that sight from her with his mantle (see the wall representation in the last picture below).

Two of the main streets of Jerusalem meet here. Just in front of an elegant portico from the Ottoman Period, Israeli archaeologist have discovered flagstones of an ancient street. While pilgrims in the past were used to remember here the Simon of Cyrene's episode, now is the Third Station.

The Way of the Cross passes through the valley separating the East and West hills upon which Jerusalem is built. To the left, in the foreground, is the Armenian Catholic Patriarcate's church, which is built on the spot where once stood the medieval church of "St. Mary of the Spasm".

A monumental arch from the Roman Period is thought to be a part of the Praetorium building (i.e. the Herodian Antonia Fortress). This arch, called "the Ecce Homo Arch", in the 19th century was incorporated into a Church dedicated to Jesus mocked by the soldiers as King of the Jews and crowned with thorns (Jn 19:1). About the real place of the Praetorium where Jesus was judged by the Roman governor Pontius Pilatus (Mt 27;2), there is a variety of opinions among New Testament scholars.

In the basement of a nun's convent (Notre Dame de Sion), there is a huge cistern divided in two by a row of arches. Since the water level was so low recently, we could take a good photo of the second vault, usually inaccessible to visitors.

Above the vaults lays a beautiful pavement made with huge flagstones; it was discovered in 1859 and soon came to be believed as the "lithostrotos" (the Pavement), which is mentioned in the Gospel account of Jesus' Passion (Jn 19:13).

On part of this pavement stands the Franciscan Chapel of the Condemnation. Remains of a medieval church were discovered there and, in 1914, after the completion of the new church, the Second Station was also transferred there.

In the Chapel of the Condemnation (called also the Lithostrotos Chapel), our escursion meets its end.


Panoramic view of the Omariyya school from the terrace of the Flagellation Monastery. As the traditional place of the Praetorium, the Franciscan procession of the Way of the Cross starts from here every Friday. Click on the photo to enlarge and then scroll to the right.


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