While in Jerusalem last week, I obviously had to walk the Via Dolorosa – the path which Jesus trod on the way to his crucifixion. The actual path is marked by nine stations of the cross with the rest inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Needless to say that the route of the Via Dolorosa and the number of stations of the cross has changed through the centuries.
Different Christian factions have argued about the true route – either on doctrinal grounds or simply because they wanted to divert pilgrims past their church and away from a rival church. Unfortunately these disputes are still surprisingly current and even the huge Church of the Holy Sepulchre is divided up between several Christian groups who get quite tetchy and fractious still – sometimes erupting in to small displays of violence.
But…what an experience to go along the Via Dolorosa. You enter through the Lion Gate…
This has traditionally been claimed to be the site of the Antonia Fortress – a vast barracks built by King Herod in honour of Mark Antony…whom Herod supported in the civil war against Octavian (though he back peddled fiercely when Octavian won that civil war).
From the Middle Ages it was believed that the fortress became the seat of power for Pontius Pilate – the ‘praetorium’ – and this is where Jesus was tried. That claim has been disputed by academics. Whether it’s true or not, the fortress was flattened decades after the death of Jesus by the emperor Vespasian when he crushed the Jewish Revolt of 70CE.