top of page

Have you been to Calvary? – Is this how you pictured it?

Have you been to Calvary?  I was just wondering what comes to mind when I say that…..  Do you get a vision of what it is like?  Do you think it is still there?  What is buried in your BELIEF?  Think about what you have been taught – then follow the post right down the Via Dolorosa –  – the way of pain, a marked path in historic old Jerusalem which is believed to be the actual path Jesus walked to Mount Calvary where he was hung on the cross to die….  Do it today, Good Friday 2016 – you won’t regret it

In honor of Good Friday we wanted to share our experience at “Calvary” with you!  Come with us on a journey….  a journey that Christ took first, a sequence of events that later evolved into what is better known as the “Stations of The Cross” these events  happened along the way of pain (Christ’s journey to his death through the Old City of Jerusalem).

Rob and I visited Jerusalem last year on an Azamara Cruise and we walked the Via Dolorosa – because that is what you do in Jerusalem… and found it to be most interesting, might I say “enlightening”…  

We had already checked a few activities off our list in the old city that day and we really didn’t know exactly where we were, so checked our map and headed in the direction of the street called the “Via Dolorosa”.  The Street where the original 14 Stations of the Cross are marked.  Once we reached The Via Dolorosa we had to figure out where the first station of the cross was….  here we will share them in order from 1-14

Oh, and here they are, in case you don’t know them – I know I didn’t….

Consider that just like Christ, if we follow the way of pain we are all on a journey to our physical death and try to find the symbolism in the events that lead there. These are also the concepts that are depicted in imagery that appear in Catholic and Orthodox Churches all around the world.  I think that modern religions, especially  have totally lost the symbolism of the concepts by trying to interpret them literally…

Before we begin, there is something else I want you to ponder….  I was wondering – when you go into these sacred buildings, do you envision, that they were here, when the event that they honor took place, or do you realize that the building was built on a piece of sacred land, or an artifact marks a sacred location being built or placed there many years later? People often don’t analyze any more, because there is always someone telling us how it is, and we don’t even question it.  But if we did, I suspect that, many of us might think the buildings were there….. that the events happened among them, somewhere…. and that’s what makes the building sacred.  I feel like that is what I was taught…  and it was somewhat confusing…  Something I would call the root of all evil in modern day religion…  We aren’t supposed to be told what to see, what to hear or what to think, and every religion is doing just that.  So please as you take your journey through our post have your own ideas, give them credibility, consider that you might could even be more right…. or maybe just right for you.

At the junction of Via Dolorosa we turned east and entered the Greek Orthodox Partorium Church (Built on top of The Prison of Christ) – and YES, we are in the Muslim Quarter. It was the Greeks who identified this as the location where Jesus (Baraba) and the two thieves where held. We entered the Chapel, and descended TWO levels below the current city to see the actual prison cells.

Who was Baraba I ask Google…. and here is what I find.  Hmmmm….

After leaving the Orthodox Church we continued up hill and under the Ecce Homo Arch, Station II. The arch was originally thought to be one of the stations, but common thinking is it was part of the old triple-arched gateway, built by Hadrian, as an entrance to the Roman Forum. We next entered the Roman Catholic Ecce Homo Monastery. Inside the Chapel, the arch continues thru the outside wall and frames the tabernacle under a Byzantine cross on a gilded mosaic backdrop.

So this arch (it was actually a series of three, one large, and two small on either side of the large, depicted here) was constructed to “mark the spot” – the arch itself was part of the original eastern gate to the “Roman City”.  It was constructed 135 years after the death of Christ, at the supposed place where Pilate presented Jesus to the people with the words “Ecce Homo”  (Behold the Man) John 19:5  Then even later yet the arch was encapsulated into the church!

You can understand this just a bit better by looking at a 3D image at a Google Map link – HERE  use your mouse to pan around to see the whole room from the inside – our photos were taken from behind a glass wall that has been erected.  The locations above are all part of the Second Station of the Cross at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa (The way of Pain)

Exiting the Monastry we continued up hill towards the Lion’s Gate. At this point an older man started walking along side us. He asked where we were from, and started telling us about where we were.

We mentioned we were disappointed that we had not been able to see the Temple Mount. He then “invited” us to come with him up a long ramp to a set of “guarded” doors/gates. We entered the Courtyard of the Al-Omariya School (Previously the Grounds of the Antonia Castle). This courtyard is Station One where Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to death. It also has an EXCELLENT view of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.

I left the location where we had been able to view the Dome of the Rock with a solemn vow that the next time I came it would be for a YOGA class to which all of humanity was welcomed….

After taking these photos and listening to the man about the history of the area. He then motioned for us to follow him – he was talking all the time…..

We descended the ramp, and crossed the street and entered the Second Station, the courtyard of the Roman Catholic Chapel of the Flagellation. The courtyard has traditionally been considered the location where Christ was flogged based on identification of ancient Roman flagstones, discovered beneath The Church – the stones have however now been identified elsewhere as well.  You know anything that is determined to be truth is always subject to a greater truth at a later date. The interior of the Chapel was, however, well worth the visit – there is a very dainty (NOT Orthodox) alter set in the center of three gorgeous stained glass windows.  It was a more familiar type of church to me – as my Father and Grandfather were Lutheran Ministers….

During our entire trip we learned that MANY of the sacred spots were incorrectly identified very early on, shrines were built, political control changed, Chapels were erected, and destroyed, and historical locations became quite murky….  maybe even Folkloric.

Leaving the Chapel of the Flagellation, we headed to the Chapel of the Condemnation, located across the courtyard in the same compound. This chapel has a marble alter, in a niche, with a beautiful curved mural depicting Christ on the steps with the cross. An interesting feature of this church is the Roman period floor, found next to its western wall. Typical of floors of that era, it is made of very large, striated stones that kept people from slipping as they walked. When you Travel Like an Architect™ you are always looking at, and photographing, the details.

As we left this Franciscan compound we realized our “guide” had “attached” himself to us. This often happens, and we have to determine if we are going to be willing to pay/tip or if we need to tell him/her to get lost. We decided he was nice, polite, clean, friendly, and MOST knowledgeable, and we could spend hours trying to do this scavenger hunt on our own… so on we all went, west down the Via Dolorosa. Sometimes we spend more time looking at the details than the main [tourist] attraction. Seems we had the same problem here. At the Third Station we saw the circular emblem, and walked through the interior of the Armenian Catholic Church but there were signs that said “No Photos Please” so we obeyed.  I do believe we did miss the exterior High Relief above the door.  Don’t remember it at all.  This whole experience was overwhelming for us – like a religious Disneyland….

Our next “stop” was Station Five, the Franciscan Chapel of Simon of Cyrene (the man who helped Jesus carry the cross when he stumbled here). Next to the entrance is a stone with a hand print, supposedly formed, when Jesus stumbled and put his hand there. Rob put his hand in here while Lynn said ICK!!! think of all the people who touched it.

Looks like another stone that has been built around and left exposed…

We continued on, with out guide – still in the Muslim Quarter! Station Six was simply a door, not from antiquity, with the numeral VI. According to tradition, the door marks the home where Veronica handed Jesus her veil to wipe her face. Adjacent to this is The Chapel of Veronica, which was not open – YES, when you Travel Like an Architect™ you try ALL the doors.

Station Seven, almost at the end of the Via Dolorosa, is another well marked door. This is where Christ fell for the second time. It is also the location of a Franciscan Chapel which was also not open. At the time of Christ, this was The Justice Gate, and the edge of the City.

I guess this guy was guarding the door….

And… at the very end of the Via Dolorosa, and the edge of the Muslim and Christian Quarter, is Station Eight – a stone, in the wall, with a Latin Cross and Greek Lettering which translated means “Jesus Christ Conquers”. Traditionally this is the location where Jesus consoled the crying women of Jerusalem-OUTSIDE the original Old City.  Although the marker would have been placed there many years later…..

At this point our guide thanked us, gave us instructions on the remaining Six Stations, and directions to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where all but one are located. In retrospect it seems he did not want to leave the Muslim Quarter. Based on the time he had spent, I gave him $10.00. He insisted he did this for a living, and wanted $20.00. This was quite typical of Israel – we felt like EVERYONE in tourism (except Sam) were out to rape the tourist. Rather than cause conflict I paid him what he wanted – I think they count on this.  In looking at the photos we took – it seemed he either was in a hurry or didn’t want to be seen with us.  I felt like I was walking in the mall with a teenage daughter….

So off we went, on our own, towards Station Nine, marked by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, where Jesus fell for the third time.  Mind you, he didn’t fall in front of the church building as Orthodoxy, the original form of Christianity was not formed for another 325 years…..

We did get a look inside this Church, and it was UNUSUAL!! Not organized, or fancy, but rather like a living room of donated items. The Copts are the oldest Christian community in the Middle East, tracing their roots back to Egypt, and Saint Mark around 42AD.

Outside the Coptic Patriarchate are the arched and domed structures of the historic Deir al-Sultan the Ethiopian Orthodox Monastery. These odd structures are, surprisingly, located on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There are two domed chapels and the tiny rooms in the long structures. The structures are in disrepair as the Coptic Church claims ownership of the site, and contend the clergy who live at the site, are squatters.

AND….. Yes, this is on the ROOF of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – a building that is jointly custodied by SIX denominations: The primary custodians are the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic Churches, lesser custodians are the Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox. Next stop: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – which contains Stations Ten thru Fourteen, and is one of the most Holy of Christian Sites – and YES, it is in the Christian Quarter. Interestingly the site is originally the location of A Temple of Aphrodite. In the second century, when Hadrian made major modifications to the Old City, a temple to Venus was constructed over this site. In 325/326 Constantine replaced the temple with this Christian Church, built as two connected buildings over the two different holy sites – Golgotha and the Tomb. A large domed basilica was placed between an enclosed colonnaded atrium (the Triportico) containing the traditional site of Golgotha, and a rotunda (the Anastasis) which contained the rock-cut room where Jesus had been buried. This building is CRAZY!! You walk here, and there, and connect up, down, thru and between sacred places – remember all the different religions must have an area that represents “them.” Between 614 and 1028 the building, burned twice, suffered thru three earthquakes, and the rampages of war. From 1028, until the present day, renovations and improvement have been ongoing. Major renovations occurred in 1808, 1959, 1972, and 1994. In 1947 the steel beams were attached to the Aedicule to prevent it from completely falling apart. The building is in poor shape due to the lack of a common “owner”. ANY part of what is designated as common territory can not be touched without consent from all communities. Since 1192 The Muslim Nuseibeh family have been the “door keepers” while The Joudeh Al-Goudia family are entrusted as custodian to the keys of the Holy Sepulchre.

The entrance to the Church is a bit difficult, and tricky to find. We wound our way down the outer Via Dolorosa, thru a narrow path by way of a local market, or souq, and eventually we found ourselves in a small courtyard, parvis, with two large arched doorways ahead. Only the left-hand arch has a door, the other entry has been bricked up.

We entered thru the one large wood door. It is GIGANTIC.  In writing this post we learned about the process for opening the door each day…. See it here

Calvary, also Golgotha, was, according to the Gospels, a site immediately outside Jerusalem’s walls where Jesus was crucified…. they are one and the same.

To the right of the doors outside is a stone stair (NO HANDRAIL) leads up to Station 10 – The Chapel of the Division of Garments. We negotiated this slippery, LARGE, steps but could only look thru glass doors to the chapel beyond. The steps are used primarily as seating for tired pilgrims.  We neglected to take a picture of it… I can remember being really TIRED by this time.

Just to the right, after entering, is a small arched opening that leads up about 12′ – this is “mount” Golgatha, or the hill/rock on which the cross was raised. AND Yes, it is now inside this church. Two of the Stations of the cross are up there: To the right is The Eleventh Station, belonging to the Franciscans – The Chapel of the Crucifixion. This chapel contains a bronze alter and beautiful 12th Century Mosaics, including the main one behind the alter depicting Christ being nailed to the cross.

To the left is The Twelfth Station, belonging to the Greek Orthodox – The Chapel of Calvary. The alter in this chapel is the exact location of Jesus’s cross, and pilgrims can bend down, under the alter, and touch the rock. To the sides of the alter, enclosed in glass, are the two locations of the thieves crosses. This is a HIGHLY metallic (gold, brass, silver, and tin) room filled with brass oil lamps – oil lamps even hang from the cross behind the alter.  During the building of the Church, Constantine’s mother, Helena, is believed to have rediscovered the “True Cross”, which tradition holds that when she found three crosses she tested each by having it held over a corpse and when the corpse rose up under one, that was the true cross.

Notice the person kneeling under the alter at the exact spot where Jesus’ cross had been embedded in Mt.Golgatha

We left this upper area and descended down an even steeper set of narrow stone steps. At the bottom of the stairs, and still in the main entry area of the building, is the Thirteenth Station – This station is where Jesus was taken down from the cross, laid on The Stone of the Anointment, and anointed with a mixture of myrrh and oil. Highly venerated by the Orthodox, the area is filled with candlesticks and oil lamps. There is a WONDERFUL (and very big) mosaic on the back wall depicting the Unction.

There is NO logical flow thru this building. We headed to our right – something we Architects find is a innate behavior for people. This took us around the outside of the Catholicon where we stopped briefly at the Greek Chapel of the Derision, the Armenian Chapel of Division of Robes, and the Greek Chapel of St. Longinus.

Coming all the way around took us into the heart of the building, the large Anastasis (or Rotunda) housing the Fourteenth Station – The Tomb! There was quite a line around the tomb, and we questioned IF we really wanted to stand in it. So we wandered the perimeter of this room which has 12 alternating columns, pillars, and windows (which are currently blocked off).

At the Alter of Mary, the two parts of a single column belong to the original Hadrian’s temple. At the back of the Rotunda is one of the oldest portions of the building, the Syrian Chapel. LYNN IS STANDING AT THE ALTER HERE. Because of the conflict in Syria, and contested ownership of this area by the Armenians, the elements are severely degraded and in disrepair.

A small passageway in the wall leads to the Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, who offered his own tomb to Jesus.  During our walk we determined the line appeared to be moving fast enough, and we did want to see what was in the “BOX”.

The “box” is the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre – The Edicule, with its onion-shaped cupola, consists of a vestibule or passageway, the Chapel of the Angel, that leads to the narrow burial chamber where on the right is the rock-cut marble bench on which the body of Christ was laid. We got in the line and wound around the exterior of a red marble “box” that is now supported with large (UGLY) steel beams. At the entrance was an Orthodox Priest who was controlling traffic – you can not go in until someone comes out, and BEWARE you stay to long, and he will come in to scold you. When our turn came we ducked thru the VERY tiny, and low doorway, and entered the ante-chamber – the Chapel of the Angel.

The original rock had been conserved in its entirety until the church’s destruction in 1009. Constantine destroyed the original subterranean antechamber in a remodeling that was to create a burial chamber free of walls and surrounded by balustrades. When you Travel Like an Architect™ you really wonder about some people’s ideas of “improvement”.

Beyond the Chapel of the Angel is a VERY VERY small burial chamber entered thru a SMALL white marble doorway decorated with a bas-relief of the Resurrection . Inside the chamber are 43 lamps that burn day and night. The burial “shelf” where the body was laid is to your right as you enter. There is almost room for two persons kneeling, and two persons behind standing.

We exited the Edicule thru the same doorway we entered. We next made our way to the impressive Katholikon – the large room In front of the Edicule, where the Crusaders originally built their Choir of the Canons, now presided over by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. The room is topped with a large dome containing windows and a mosaic of Christ. Where the Choir of the Canons once sat, the Orthodox have erected their Iconostasis flanked by the Patriarchal Thrones of Antioch on the right and Jerusalem on the left. Beneath the floor of the Katholikon, near the current apse, is the apse from Constantine’s Martyrium Basilica. Based on various Biblical references, this location is seen to be the geographical center of the world coinciding with the site of the divine manifestation. A rose-colored circular stone marked with a cross marks this spot.

The object of the Stations of the Cross in modern and traditional religion is to help the Christian faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage through contemplation of the Passion of Christ. It has become one of the most popular devotions and the stations can be found in most Western Catholic as well as in a number of Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist churches.

Let us know in a comment if Calvary looks like you thought it would….  We will be interested to hear!

As we exited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre compound, tired, heads spinning from all the history. It was mid-afternoon, and we were ready to work our way back to the ship. We wound our way thru the bazaar, towards the Jaffa Gate where there was free WiFi at the tourism building. Along the way we were enticed into another Fresh Squeezed Pomegranate Juice and the Shawar’s Bakery.

I wish you could see the old guy sitting inside the bakery – Dressed like a Sheik in all white robes and a keffiyeh! I didn’t want to be obnoxious about taking his picture so we sat down on a stoop across the street from his store!

This is where we got delicious bakery and ate it immediately.  We were so hungry that I don’t even remember what it was…. We then worked our way to the wifi location. Our Guide Sam had come thru with a taxi recommendation, so we called him: Mr, Golani, 0548141176. He was with a customer, but said he could pick us up at our hotel in a couple hours. Since it was only a 20 min walk back, we decided to work our way back to the hotel via the Zion Gate, and MAYBE King David’s Tomb (outside the city walls, but VERY visible).  See the post about our whole day – CLICK HERE.

Mr. Golani – a reputable English speaking cab driver in the Jerusalem area!  Phone: 0548141176

He was referred to us by:  Sam Eli Salem

Email –

Phone – +972-544-828207

Sam speaks perfect English and several other languages fluently!

We arrived and were greeted pier side with water, cold towels, and a dozen “Welcome Back’s” – and “How was your Stay” by the Azamara Staff. I guess the suitcase we had in tow was a give away that we had spent the previous night in Jerusalem. It felt good to “be home”. We had a pre-shower drink, a shower, An Azamazing Dinner, with wine, and a late night of entertainment (as we did not have to be up early tomorrow).

The Holy Land Area is amazing for the simple fact that, ancient history has been preserved.  It is like a religious Disneyland because people come from all over the world to experience it.  My experience there really made me think, and perhaps connect some dots…. and maybe it will for you too.  Religious people in the Holy Land and all over the world are living their lives just like the Via Dolorosa – The way of Pain.  They are in constant conflict over beliefs and boundaries – while living the Status Quo – in a world where the only thing constant is change!  Each religion is focused on rituals that were taught to them and handed down through the generations.  They each believe that they are RIGHT but the sin in that matter is that in order to believe that you are right you have to judge another as WRONG.  When you live your life in this manner – you are indeed assured the Via Dolorosa, the way of pain.  When you pass down the tradition of being RIGHT – you are teaching your offspring to evaluate and Judge others, something that is supposed to be reserved only for God.  When we learn to judge as part of religion – our ability to judge becomes our internal torch – and some carry the torch too far – even using it for destruction!

What would the world be like if we were ALL right

and that was OUR Status Quo?

Could we 

The Status Quo term comes from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  It is an official collection of historical traditions and influences, of rules and laws, which establish the relations, activities, and movements that are carried out in those parts of the church where ownership is shared by different Christian denominations – Read more CLICK HERE

We really covered some turf this day…… After doing the research required to do this post we have decided that we would surely love to return some day – perhaps take you with….. Who wants to explore more? Give us a call at 815-516-0300

Rob and Lynn Belles are seasoned World Travelers

Gathering up the best experiences on Earth to share with you

for the purpose of inspiring you to go into the world with peace and kindness to learn about the rest of humanity………..

CLICK HERE for pricing and info – Call for details 🙂

If you found something here that inspired you or helped you plan your next cruise

Simply THANK us by booking with us or Donate below!

Donating helps cover the cost of producing the post that helps you and others! Just decide what the info was worth to YOU and click the Donate button below! Select an amount to Donate: $2$5$10$15$20$25

 Thank you for your interest in making an online gift. Giving a gift online is easy and secure.

Simply click the button above and give to your heart’s content!

No Gift is too Small and Every Gift Matters!

If you want to book instead, we have two easy to use booking sites


 (We always have the same pricing as everybody else and many times better!)

This is our Blog – Travel Like An Architect™ where we tell stories

We travel to get away and to be together, to learn and to teach, to experience and become wise, to turn off the news and ignore the clock, to connect to the world in a peaceful way all while leaving a bit of our wealth with someone else who needs it more than we do.  We know you could do this too or we wouldn’t be promoting it.  Go ahead step out of your comfort zone and dream a little then let us show you just how affordable your dreams really are!

Call 815-516-0300 for more information!

Follow us on Social – Click the Icons in the footer

4 views0 comments


bottom of page