The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the holiest place and the spiritual center for Catholics in Jerusalem. Pilgrims follow Jesus’ steps in Old Jerusalem via Dolorosa, reflecting on the passion and death of our Lord.
Here’s a photo essay of our Day 6 experience in Old Jerusalem…
Via Dolorosa “Via Crusis”
Jerusalem’s Old City walls, built in the early 16th century by the Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, have eight gates. All but one (the Gate of Mercy) still serve Jerusalemites and visitors streaming to its markets, and sacred and historic sites. (source: Go Israel)
Herod’s Gate: Despite its name, the notorious Judean king had nothing to do with this gate. In Arabic and Hebrew this north-facing gate, which leads to the Old City markets, is called the Flowers Gate. Some say the name derives from a rosette carved over it. However, in Arabic a similar word means “awakened,” and may refer to a nearby cemetery and the hope of resurrection. (source: Go Israel)
We entered the old city of Jerusalem via Herod’s Gate at around 7.30am to avoid the crowds.
The gate leads to a market street, with the shops just starting to set up at this time.
We were excited to walk on the narrow limestone path en route to the starting point of the Via Dolorosa.
The Way of the Cross is an exercise of piety, whereby Christians prayfully follow in a penitential spirit the same way along which Jesus walked, carrying His Cross, from the Place of Judgement, Pilate’s “Praetorium” to Golgotha, the Hill of Calvary.
Via Dolorosa is so meaningful because you walk the exact path where historians believe Jesus walked on His way to Calvary 2,000 years ago.
Station I. Jesus is condemned to death
Actual crosses are available for pilgrims to carry at the first station.
The Way of the Cross starts in this location, believed to be Pilate’s Praetoriumwhere Jesus was tried and condemned to be crucified.
Station II. Jesus receives His Cross
The stations were divided among the pilgrim groups, who took turns in leading the prayers and reflection per station.
The pilgrim group carried the cross while we all followed, tracing the footsteps of Jesus Christ on the way to Golgotha.
There’s an obligatory group shot at the start of Via Dolorosa from the enterprising photographers trying to make money by selling souvenir photos of the experience.
Station III. Jesus falls the first time under His Cross
It was both a surreal and meaningful experience.
These stones are marked to indicate that they are the same ones from 2,000 years ago.
Station IV. Jesus meets Mary His Mother
The stations are identified by the corresponding Roman numerals above.
Public restrooms are very limited, so make sure to take advantage of the water closet at this point.
Station V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry His Cross
I couldn’t help but imagine how hard it must have been for our Lord to carry His heavy cross.
It was a bit annoying how this photographer took shots of our every step and tried to sell the photos to us afterwards.
Station VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
It’s important to immerse yourself in the experience and limit distractions.
You can take the opportunity to help carry the cross up these steps.
Station VII. Jesus falls the second time
It’s not uncommon to see other pilgrim groups from all over the world doing the Via Dolorosa.
Don’t forget to include other people’s intentions in your prayers.
VIII. Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem
It’s a lovely experience, doing the Via Dolorosa with your wife or special someone.
Station IX. Jesus falls the third time
This is the spot where Jesus fell for the third time. You can already see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from this vantage point.
Station X. Jesus is stripped of His garments
We decided to end the Stations of the Cross here because it gets crowded near the Church.
Make carrying your cross your special offering to the Lord.
My wife Rache was 3 months pregnant during this pilgrimage. She endured the journey with baby Ysrael Gabriel.
Station XI. Jesus is nailed to the Cross
We entered this door of humility, which led to different churches of various Christian denominations.
This is the site of the 11th station, commemorating Jesus’ nailing to the cross.
Some pilgrims decide to end their Way of the Cross at the plaza outside the Church of Holy Sepulchre.
This is the spot for the second souvenir group photo.
Station XII. Jesus dies on the Cross
The entrance of the Holy Sepulchre Church, which opens at 4.00am and closes at 7.00pm during winter, and 9.00pm during summer.
The tomb marker of Crusader Philip d’Aubigny, who requested his tomb to be outside the Church, for pilgrims to step on as a sign of humility.
The steep entrance to the Hill of Calvary.
The right section of Golgotha is managed by the Roman Catholic Church.
The main section of Golgotha is managed by the Greek Orthodox Church, with a shrine adorned with lamps.
The center marks the exact spot where Jesus’ cross was erected, and where pilgrims line up to venerate and pray.
Below Golgotha is the Church of Adam, where it is believed that the Blood of Christ washed away sin to save us.
Station XIII. Jesus is taken down from the Cross
In compliance with Jewish tradition, the body of Christ was anointed with oil.
The stone where Jesus’ body was laid down is one of the most popular spots for all pilgrims.
Pilgrims venerate the stone and bless their religious articles with the oil coming from the stone. There was a first-hand account from our pilgrim group of its healing powers for those who believe.
The way to the small cave where Jesus was buried.
XIV. Jesus is laid in the tomb
Pilgrims believe that this is the exact same spot where Jesus was buried and resurrected, making it the holiest place for Christians in the Holy Land.
The magnificent rooftop covering the tomb.
We waited in line for an hour to get inside the cave. In the peak season, the waiting time is much longer.
The entrance to the cave where Jesus was buried, adorned with lamps and candles.
Inside is a holding area before entering into the actual place where the Lord’s body was laid to rest.
Pilgrims venerate the exact place where Jesus is believed to have been raised from the dead.
There’s a nearby public toilet in case you need to go while waiting in line or after finishing your Via Dolorosa.
After our Via Dolorosa experience, we had time for a little shopping. Check out Dajani’s Orient Bazaar…
…for accessories and other Jerusalem souvenir items.
Right beside is Bazaar Barakat…
…which sells old Palestinian embroidery.
There’s also the large Jerusalem Bagel and other freshly baked goods on the street.
Make the most of your shopping time in the streets of Jerusalem.
Bulghourji Armenian Lunch
The Jaffa Gate: This was the destination of Jewish and Christian pilgrims disembarking at the Jaffa port, hence its name. It led (and still leads) directly to the Jewish and Christian quarters, as well as to the most popular parts of the market, and to the Tower of David Museum, once Jerusalem’s citadel and now a showcase of its history. (source: Go Israel)
We walked past the Jaffa Gate to get to the Armenian Quarter in Old Jerusalem.
We were excited to try our first taste of Armenian cuisine.
Love the fresh vegetables and Arabic bread with hummus and spicy tomato salsa.
All three bus groups of our pilgrimage were accommodated in the al fresco area of the restaurant.
I loved the meat. The chicken was juicy but had no taste.
You can skip the dessert.
Our pilgrim group lunchmates from the Blue Bus.
The Zion Gate: Bearing Jerusalem’s earliest biblical name in Hebrew and English, this gate’s Arabic name is the Gate of the Prophet David, as the Tomb of King David, on adjacent Mount Zion, is only a few steps away. Zion Gate leads directly to the Armenian and Jewish quarters. (source: Go Israel)
After lunch, we walked all the way to the Zion Gate.
We visited two significant Christian sites: the Dormition Abbey and the Room of the Last Supper.
Inside the Church of the Dormition Abbey.
In the basement is the sleeping statue of Mama Mary, which is believed to be the place where she slept and went to heaven.
The Room of the Last Supper
The Room of the Last Supper is the place where Jesus first performed the sacrament of Holy Communion, near the location of the tomb of King David.
The Room of the Last Supper, with Byzantine Crusader Era design influences and a little bit of Muslim architecture.
Brother Bo, the Feast Leaders, and the community prayed for the Holy Spirit to bless the pilgrims.
The Wailing Wall
The Dung Gate: This gate’s unusual name derives from the refuse dumped here in antiquity, where the prevailing winds would carry odors away. Nehemiah 2:13 mentions a Dung Gate that was probably near this one. This gate leads directly to the Western Wall and the Southern Wall Archaeological Park. (source: Go Israel)
We walked to the Dung Gate, near the Jewish Quarter, to visit the Wailing Wall.
The Wailing Wall is located on the foundation of the Western Wall of the courtyard of the old Jerusalem Temple.
This plaza was a Muslim quarter before. It was cleared out and became a place where pilgrims gather to go to the Wailing Wall.
There is a separate area for men and women.
Make sure you are dressed decently, your hands are clean, and for the men, your head is covered with kippah.
Jews believe that the wall is Holy and serves as a direct connection to Heaven.
Pilgrims write their prayer offerings on paper and insert them into the cracks in the wall.
Lion’s Gate: This portal is named after a pair of ferocious-looking animal carvings that flank it. They are actually tigers, the heraldic symbol of the 13th-century Sultan Beybars. It is also called St. Stephen’s Gate, after the first Christian martyr, who tradition says was stoned nearby. Lion’s Gate, which leads to the Pools of Bethesda, the Via Dolorosa, and the markets, became famous during the Six Day War. (source: Go Israel)
We had our mass and The Feast at the Church of the birthplace of Mama Mary.
Beside the church, you’ll see the ancient pools of Bethesda used 2,000 years ago.
You can go to the basement of the Church for the grotto.
This place, where Mama Mary was born, is also venerated by pilgrims.
We heard a beautiful mass at St. Anne’s Church, which has better acoustics than the other churches in Jerusalem.
We had the second and last Feast of our pilgrimage in this church.
It was a very touching moment. We were hugging each other at the end.
P.S. The Next Holy Land Pilgrimage by Bro. Bo Sanchez is on February 10-19, 2015. For more info, you can email Tita Beckie at Beaconlighteventsfirstname.lastname@example.org
P.P.S. The pilgrimage tour costs P340,108 (exchange rate P44.65 – $1) for a couple, broken down into the following:
Tour Cost: $2,995.00 x 2 = $5,990
Airline/ Other Taxes: $495 x 2 = $980
Tip Fund: $100 x 2 = $200
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner: $130 x 2 = $260
Travel Insurance: $45 x 2 = $90
Philippine Travel Tax: P1,620 x 2 = P3,240
Airport Tax: P550 x 2 = P1,100
Note: There’s a $300/person non-refundable reservation for the trip, which is deductable from the total amount.
Overall, the Pilgrimage tour with Bro. Bo Sanchez is relatively more expensive than the other pilgrimage trips organized with Executive Resources. But it is the best experience for us because of The Feast (Community Worship Gathering) and the Feast Builders who make the trip awesome. 🙂
TIP: You can decide to book your own airfare if you plan to visit other countries after your pilgrimage.
P.S. When in Jerusalem, make sure to go on an early morning walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and attend the 6am mass.