The Sacred Journey: Pilgimage to the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem

The Sacred Journey: Pilgimage to the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem

by Steven Brooke

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This volume takes the reader on a personal pilgrimage to the Jerusalem of Christ. It vividly depicts the most holy places of His last days on earth, culminating with the fourteen Stations of the Cross. This carefully researched, scholarly presentation brings the story of the Passion into vivid focus. For centuries, the Stations of the Cross have been a rich subject for scholars and a beloved cornerstone for the faithful. The stunning photographs in Sacred Journey present the ancient and timeless Old City of Jerusalem, and the sites of the fourteen Stations of the Cross with scholarly accuracy and artistic sensitivity. The evocative images of the streets, shrines, and chapels are accompanied by descriptive text providing insight into their history and the history of Christian pilgrimage. Let Sacred Journey take you on your own spiritual pilgrimage along this most holy path.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780892545728
Publisher: Nicolas-Hays, Inc
Publication date: 09/01/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 80
File size: 11 MB
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About the Author

Steven Brooke is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, a Fellow of the Albright Institute in Jerusalem, and winner of the National AIA Honor Award in Photography. Based in Miami, he is the author;photographer of ten books on architecture and design, and the photographer of twenty others. He can be contacted at

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A Pilgrimage to the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem

By Steven Brooke


Copyright © 2010 Steven Brooke Studios
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-89254-163-8


History of the Stations of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross are also known as Way of the Cross, Via Crucis, and Via Dolorosa. The history of the Stations of the Cross is somewhat confused as is the actual number. It is now settled on fourteen. The object of the Stations is to help people make a spiritual pilgrimage to the main scenes of Christ's sufferings and death. Chapels representing the important shrines in Jerusalem were constructed as early as the fifth century. However, there is no evidence that they were intended to follow exactly a specific Way of the Cross. Reports of fourteenth-century pilgrims mention a sacred route around the shrines but they do not identify a Way of the Cross as it is now understood. The earliest mention of Stations of the Cross occurs in the narrative of the English pilgrim, William Wey, who visited Jerusalem in 1458 and 1462. Wey mentions that pilgrims followed in the footsteps of Christ, but went from Calvary to the House of Pilate. By the sixteenth century, the accepted route was reversed to that which is followed today.

During the fifteenth century, pilgrims returning to their homes established a set of Stations by painting or carving scenes in monasteries and convents. The Stations were constructed in the Dominican friary at Cordova, the Poor Clare convent in Messina, and in Nuremburg. Stations were also located at Fribourg, Louvain, and Rhodes. Over the years, more imitative sites were constructed but there was no agreement on the number of Stations. Wey's fifteenth-century account mentions fourteen sites in Jerusalem; but only five correspond to current Stations, and seven are only remotely connected with the Way of the Cross accepted today. These were, the House of Dives, the city gate through which Christ passed; the probatic pool; the Ecce Homo arch; the Blessed Virgin's school; and the houses of Herod and Simon the Pharisee.

During the sixteenth century, manuals of devotion produced for those visiting Jerusalem variously mention nineteen, twenty-five, and thirty-seven Stations. Jerusalem Sicut Christi Tempore Floruit, published in 1584, mentions twelve Stations and these correspond to the first twelve of the modern Stations.

Under Turkish rule, pilgrimage to the Holy places in Jerusalem was more difficult. This led to an increase in devotional ritual practice at imitative Stations throughout Europe. The current practice follows those European rituals of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century pilgrims.

Medieval accounts of pilgrimages make no mention of the Second Station or the Tenth Station. One Station mentioned in almost all early accounts, but not numbered in the present Stations, is the Ecce Homo Arch (Page 44). One of the earliest imitative Stations indicates that Christ had nine falls; only three are currently included: the Third, Seventh, and Ninth. The other four stations correspond to four incidents: His meeting with His Mother; His meeting with Simon of Cyrene; His face wiped by Veronica; and His meeting with the women of Jerusalem. There is also confusion as to the timing of certain events. Some have placed Simon of Cyrene and the Women of Jerusalem at the same time while the Veronica incident is considered by some to have occurred just before arrival at Calvary.

In 1991, Pope John Paul II presented an alternative to the traditional stations as a way of reflecting more deeply on the Scriptural accounts of Christ's passion.

For some, legitimate doubts about historic accuracy are counterbalanced by the piety of the millions who add the force of their belief to sites already charged with the legend of sacred event. As countless guides suggest, the enduring power of such sites to inspire is best appreciated when seen through the eye of faith rather than through the microscope of history.

The sense of sacred site, embodied in the landscape of the Holy Land, can be felt in the grittiest streets of Jerusalem, sanctified by nearly 2000 years of veneration. The cumulative strength of that piety is palpable. And as we are reminded in Proverbs, "Wisdom cries aloud in the street." (Proverbs 20)

Prelude to the Passion

Mount of Olives from Mount Zion

The Mount of Olives rises above the Kidron Valley to the east of Jerusalem. It is a mountain steeped in tradition. David retreated here to escape Absalom (2 Samuel 15:30). On the southern spur, Solomon built temples for his foreign wives (2 Kings 23:13). On his trips to Jerusalem, Jesus crossed the Mount of Olives to reach neighboring Bethany (Luke 10:38). Events prior to the Crucifixion are centered here (Mark 14:26–52). The Tenth Roman Legion camped on its slopes in 70 C.E. prior to its siege. In the wake of these events, the Mount of Olives has been a primary pilgrimage site since Byzantine times. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have cemeteries here. This view is from the slopes of Mount Zion. The tower of the Russian Church of the Ascension marks the summit.

Jerusalem from the East, Summit of Mount of Olives

From the summit of the Mount of Olives, long considered to offer the best overview of Jerusalem, most the important geographical and architectural features of the city can be seen. From the left are the Hill of Evil Council (Abu Tor), the Hinnom Valley, Mount Zion with the Church of the Dormition in the distance, the south and east walls of the Old City with the Aqsa Mosque and shining Dome of the Rock, and the East Wall with the Golden Gate at the far right. In the foreground are the gravestones on the slope of the Mount of Olives. At the left, just beyond the line of gravestones, is the southeast ridge of the City of David; to the right is the Kidron Valley.

Jerusalem from the East, the Road to Bethany

Bethany, "neigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off" (John 11:18), was the home of Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary, as well as that of Simon the Leper where Jesus was anointed prior to Passover (Mark 14:3). Jesus returned to Bethany after his entry into Jerusalem (Luke 24:50); and from Bethany he proceeded to Jerusalem and his Crucifixion. The view across the Kidron Valley to Jerusalem has changed very little through the centuries. Climbing the steep ascent to Bethany "in the footsteps of Jesus" has always been an important aspect of Christian pilgrimage, in part because one can be fairly certain that Jesus walked this road and had a similar view of Jerusalem.

Dominus Flevit

Standing on the site of a fifth-century Byzantine monastery, this Franciscan church commemorates the site where on Palm Sunday Jesus "... drew near and saw the city and wept over it" (Luke 19:41), and lamented its future destruction. Hence, dominus flevit, "the Lord wept." The modern church was built in 1955, designed in the shape of a tear by the Italian architect Antonio Barlozzi.

Church of All Nations (Church of the Agony)

This site, north of the Garden of Gethsemene, commemorates the spot where Jesus prayed before he was betrayed by Judas and then arrested (Matthew 26:36–56). Jesus knew he was in mortal danger (John 11:8) but that he could also retreat to the Mount of Olives and ultimately escape to the desert. Only through prayer could he decide whether to stand or flee. Pilgrims' accounts report a fourth-century church on the slopes of the Mount of Olives which may lie beneath the present-day one. Called the Egeria (the Elegant), it is thought to have been built 379–384 C.E. In the eighth century, the Byzantine church was destroyed in an earthquake. In ca. 1170, the Crusaders built an oratory in the ruins which they replaced with another church that was finally abandoned in 1345. The present Franciscan church was designed by Antonio Barlozzi in 1924.

Garden of Gethsemene

"Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, 'I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.' And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.' Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, 'So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.'"—Matthew 26:36–41

Pater Noster Church

Constantine commemorated caves associated with three events in the life of Jesus: his Birth in Bethlehem; his Resurrection at the Holy Sepulchre; and his Teaching and Ascension on the Mount of Olives. When the site of the Ascension was moved further up the Mount of Olives, the third cave was associated solely with the teaching of good and evil (Matthew 24:1–26:2). Queen Helena's fourth-century Eleona Church was destroyed by the Persians in 614. The cave was venerated in the Crusader era as the place where the Lord's Prayer was taught and where Jesus spent his last nights in Jerusalem (Luke 21:37). In 1857 Princessa de la Tour d'Avergne bought the land and in 1868, built a cloister and founded a Carmelite convent. An attempt to rebuilt the Byzantine basilica in 1915 was partially successful. The cloister has the Lord's Prayer in 68 different languages.

Coenaculum, The Room of the Last Supper

According to tradition Jesus and his disciples at their Last Supper (the Passover Seder) in a "large upper room" (Mark 14:15; Matthew 26:17–29). The room we see today is on the second floor of the twelfth-century Crusader Church of Our Lady of Mount Zion. The bread and wine consecrated at the Last Supper became the elements of the Christian Eucharist. This is also the traditional site of the Miracle of the Pentecost when the spirit of God descended on the Apostles who began to speak in "other tongues" (Acts 2:1–4). The room was renovated in the fourteenth century by the Franciscans. In the fifteenth century, the Moslems converted the room into a mosque. The mid-1980s restoration preserved the Crusader arches, vaulting, and columns.

The Prison of Christ

The chapel of the Prison of Christ is located at the east end of the north aisle of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. First mentioned by Epiphanius, a monk of the eight century, the chapel was an early station celebrating the Passion and Death of Christ. A twelfth-century tradition holds that Christ and the two thieves were held on this spot prior to their crucifixion.

Vade Mecum


Traversing the Stations of the Cross is a journey made on foot—slowly, contemplatively. The entire journey can be made comfortably in two to three hours. Some experience the Stations of the Cross only once in their lifetime—perhaps the ultimate expression of their devotion. For many others, the pilgrimage is a daily nurturing ritual.

Tourists and pilgrims to Jerusalem typically travel in groups. They follow the Passion with friends and members of their congregation. The city feels the pressure of these earnest crowds often as early as 6:00 A.M. The times available for quiet, solitary contemplation of early twenty-first century Jerusalem grow increasingly rare.

However, for those willing to rise just before dawn, Jerusalem casts an ethereal spell. In the absence of cars, it is possible to hear an occasional footfall or a lone voice in early prayer. The forgiving light subdues the common and the abrasive, revealing, however briefly, the authentic and the ancient. It discloses portals to the centuries and inspires one to enter. Amid the echoes of three millennia, a singular moment of solitude in Jerusalem's ancient streets or on a hill overlooking the city, is indelibly hypnotic. I lived for those moments.

With these images of Jerusalem I invite the reader to travel as I did—perhaps for the first time—through this mystical city, alone in thought.

We start at the Lion's Gate (also called St. Stephen's Gate) and quietly enter the Via Dolorosa—the Road of Sorrow, the Way of the Cross, on our own private pilgrimage.

Via Dolorosa

The Stations of the Cross dramatize Jesus' last journey. Roman custom held that those condemned to death were obliged to walk through the city displaying the details of their crimes. The route followed today began to evolve in the fourteenth century under the guidance of the Franciscans; their original starting point was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Only eight stations were observed. Some are based upon popular tradition and are not mentioned in the Gospels. The present route through the Via Dolorosa was established in the eighteenth century, with Stations I, IV, V, and VIII agreed upon in the nineteenth century. At the right are the domes of the Church of the Condemnation and the Monastery of the Flagellation. The Ecce Homo Arch (Page 44) is in the distance.

The Stabat Mater

The medieval Latin hymn, "Stabat Mater," is a poem about the Virgin Mary and her profound sorrow at witnessing the death of her son, Jesus Christ. "Stabat Mater" is particularly associated with the Stations of the Cross. When the Stations are performed in public, as in church or an outdoor procession, it is customary to sing stanzas of this hymn while walking from one Station to the next.

Stabat Mater


Oh, how sad and sore distress'd Was that Mother highly blest Of the sole-begotten One!


Christ above in torment hangs; She beneath beholds the pangs Of her dying glorious Son.

The Stations of the Cross


Station I: Jesus Is Condemned To Death

"When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, 'If you are the Messiah, tell us.' He replied, 'If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.' All of them asked, 'Are you, then, the Son of God?' He said to them, 'You say that I am.' Then they said, 'What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!'"—Luke 22:66-71

Stabat Mater


Is there one who would not weep, Whelm'd in miseries so deep Christ's dear Mother to behold?

These stairs lead to where Christians believe the Praetorium was located and where Christ was condemned. Scholars believe the Citadel is a more likely location. Now the Umariyya School for Boys, this was the site of the Antonia Fortress and other fortresses that guarded the northern side of the Temple Mount during the Second Temple period. It was the headquarters of the Roman garrison stationed in Jerusalem.

Temple Mount, Overview from Tower of Antonia

"They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate." —Mark 15:1

The view from the south-facing window of the Umariyya School overlooks the Temple Mount. With the Second Temple replacing the Dome of the Rock, this view is dramatically similar to what would have been seen by Roman soldiers stationed at the garrison in the Tower of Antonia—and by Jesus, if he had been detained here.

Ecce Homo Arch

The place beneath this arch is traditionally thought to be the spot outside the Praetorium where Pilate, referring to Jesus, said to the crowd, "Behold the man;" in Latin, "Ecce homo" (John 19:5). The arch is actually part of a triple triumphal arch once thought to have been built by Hadrian in ca. 135 C.E. as part of his forum in Jerusalem. Some scholars now believe it was built by Herod Agrippa (41-44 C.E.) in the Second Temple period. The north arch was incorporated into a chapel by the Convent of the Sisters of Sion (Page 45); the southern arch was destroyed.

Sisters of Sion Chapel, North Arch

The north arch of the triumphal triple arch thought to have been built by Hadrian in 135 C.E. (but possibly by Herod Agrippa) was uncovered during a rain storm in 1851. The Sisters of Sion, founded in 1857 as an orphanage and convent, incorporated the north arch into the chapel that stands at the east end of their church. The Lithostrotos pavement excavated beneath the arch was also constructed during this period. Among the inscriptions carved into the pavement is the farcical game called Basilicus, or the King's Game. The rules, which involve heaping absurd honors on a "king" prior to his death, painfully recall the events of Jesus's humiliation at this point in his journey (Matthew 27:2730).


Station II: Jesus Bears the Cross

"Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' and striking him on the face. Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha." —John 19:1-3, 16-17.

Stabat Mater


Can the human heart refrain From partaking in her pain, In that Mother's pain untold?

Station II is observed at the Church of the Condemnation in the Courtyard of the Franciscan Monastery of the Flagellation. Beneath the church are remains of a Byzantine church and sections of a second-century C.E. road thought by some to have been part of the Lithostrotos of the Praetorium.

Excerpted from SACRED JOURNEY by Steven Brooke. Copyright © 2010 Steven Brooke Studios. Excerpted by permission of NICOLAS HAYS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 8

Foreword: Christian Pilgrimage in Jerusalem 10

History of the Stations of the Cross 13

Prelude to the Passion 15

Vade Mecum: An Invitation to the Pilgrimage 33

The Stations of the Cross 39

Bibliography & Readings 78

About the Author 79

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