The narrow streets of the Old City are filled with visitors, residents
and vendors who are moving goods to the various stalls and shopping areas
inside the walls. During Christian religious holidays crowds can become a
significant problem, especially during Easter week. If you want to
experience Jerusalem during this celebration, you will have little choice
but to contend with the crowds.
If the crowds become too much for you, ease out of the traffic and stop in
one of the many shops for some peace of mind. The young men moving
goods through the streets seems to have little patience for tourists and, if
you are not careful, you may find yourself being pushed up or down the
street at the head of cart that simply will not slow.
Christians believe that Via Dolorosa represents the
path that Jesus tread as he carried his cross to the site of his
crucifixion. Beginning at St. Stephen’s gate, the Stations of the Cross end
at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Nine of the Stations are along
Via Dolorosa and the remaining 5are located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
There have been many versions of the path in the past and the present
route and Stations of the Cross
date from the 18th century.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered the holiest shrine of Christendom.
Believers hold that the Church encompasses the Hill of Calvary (Golgotha)
where Jesus was crucified, as well as the cave (the Holy Sepulchre) where he
was buried and rose from the dead (the Resurrection) .
These locations were established by the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine 1, in the 4th century. Constantine’s mother, Helena, was tasked
by her son with discovering and preserving the important shines of Christianity in Jerusalem.
During her search she indicated that she was able to identify several sites
related to the life of Christ
The foundations of the present church were erected in in early 4th
century to commemorate Helena’s finding of the True Cross and the Tomb of the Christ.
The interior of the church is quite unremarkable, but it is
the belief that this is the site of the Crucifixion and Christ’s tomb that attract the faithful. In the center of a rotunda sits a massive enclosed shrine known as the Kouvouklion that is reputed
to be the original location of Christ’s tomb.
The church of the Holy Sepulchre is jointly managed by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox
(Greek), Armenian Apostolic, Ethiopian Orthodox, as well as the Coptic Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox communities.
The poor condition of the structure is said to be due to these parties not being able to agree on a maintenance program. Even more confusing, the stewards of the church are very territorial and members of one group are not allowed to enter the section of the church maintained by other groups. In the past, fist fights, wrestling matches and other unchristian behavior have marked the interaction of these groups.
The original church was damaged by fire in the early 7th century and completely destroyed in the 11th century by
agents of the Fatamid Caliphate. Rebuilding started later in the 11th century, but
remained unfinished as the church was taken over by a number of non-Christian
groups during the succeeding years. In part, the frustrations over the care
of the Christian holy sites led to a call for a crusade to restore the church to Christian hands in the 11th century.
Renovations started during the period called the Crusades and continued
in fits and starts during the succeeding centuries. Damaged by fire in the early 19th century, the dome collapsed and was
Curiously, the entrance to the church is still managed by the Joudeh familiy who were given the key to the door by Saladin in the 12th century. The Nusseibeh (the oldest
Arab family in Jerusalem) who have been the custodians of the door since the mid-seventh century are brought the key each day a member of the Joudeh family and to this day it is the a member of the Nusseibeh Family who opens the door of the church.
Cardo is the road once ran from the Damascus Gate
south through the city and a segment of what was once the path of the Cardo is now a tourist
area filled with shops and somewhat expensive souvenirs.
A smalll section of the Cardo has been excavated that
contains remnants of the two-thousand year old Roman era avenue that
was lined lined with columns and included covered shops.
The Western Wall is a retaining wall that helps to support
the area known to the Jewish Faith as the Temple Mount. The Western Wall
is a site of both religious and national importance to many Israelis.
It is the closest location to the Temple Mount at which members of the
Jewish faith can pray to their God. The area is partitioned into
two prayers sections for women and men.
The large stones at the bottom of the Western Wall are believed by some to
have been part of Solomon’s Temple. These same stones have
been "polished" by the incredible
number of hands that touch them during prayer. Many petitioners leave
prayers or requests on paper rolled into small tubes and stuffed in the cracks between the stones.
Approximately two-hundred feet of the five-hundred foot long wall are exposed.
A large portion of the wall is below ground while other sections hidden by newer
construction. The entrance to the Rabbinical tunnels are located at the north end of the plaza
(see photo above) and the interiors are quite interesting, but can be
entered only by males.
We should caution you that the Western Wall is a powerful place and even non-believers who approach the Wall
and pray are
often profoundly touched by the experience.
Bring a small piece of paper and a pen, because you will find yourself wanting to leave a
rolled note tucked into one of the nooks of the Western Wall. (If you
forget, paper and pencils are usually available on one of the tables near
Located in the Jewish Quarter, the Old City’s largest
synagogue was originally built in the early 18th century, but destroyed and rebuilt
It was completely destroyed during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and
the location of the synagogue
was marked with an arch after the Six-Day War in 1967, A
new synagogue was re-opened on the site in 2010.
Next - explore
the Noble Sanctuary including its Dome of the Rock.
Or - take a look at the index to the
ThereArePlaces Guide to Jerusalem that can be found on the upper
right-hand edge of this page.
Top of Page
If you need information about another travel destination, try
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.