The Via Dolorosa is the path that was taken by Jesus from being sentenced to death, across the city to the site of his crucifixion and then to his burial. The name Via Dolorosa is Latin for Path of Grief, and contains 14 stations along the route for the various events described in the New Testament. Starting in the Muslim Quarter near the Lion Gate, the first station is his condemnation to death. The following stations are receiving the cross, falling for the first time, meeting his mother Mary, receiving help in carrying the cross from Simon, Veronica wiping his face, falling for the second time, meeting the women of Jerusalem, falling for the third time, being stripped of his clothes, and the Crucifixion. The last stations, which all take place within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, are Jesus dying on the cross, being taken down from the cross, and being laid to rest in the tomb. The Church was built to include the site of the crucifixion itself as well the tomb and the place where his body was prepared for burial.
The stations along the Via Dolorosa are all marked with buildings and artistic works depicting the station. There is a church or monastery at each station full of sculptures and paintings commemorating their particular event. The 14 stations have actually changed over time, and a new order of stations was created by Pope John Paul II and made official by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. The new order includes being betrayed by Judas, being denied by Peter and being scourged and crowned with thorns. Nevertheless, the physical Via Dolorosa depicts the original version.
The modern street is full of vendors selling souvenirs aimed at Christian tourists, lined with original stone walls, and bustling with crowds of people. This is in contrast to how most Christians imagine this path to have been, and to how it is described in hymns, but this is how it would have looked 2,000 years ago. The city would have been full of pilgrims celebrating Passover, and the streets would be full of merchants and crowds.
Christian pilgrims have come to this road for at least one thousand years, and the landmarks have become an important part of Christian tradition. Walking the last path that Jesus walked helps Christians to feel connected to him and imagine what it must have been like to carry the cross to his death.