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Jesus May Not Have Walked Jerusalem's Via Dolorosa: Scholars

Some scholars say the Via Dolorosa, walked by Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem, may not actually have been the path taken by Christ.
Image: Christian pilgrims carry a wooden cross along the \"Via Dolorosa\" in Jerusalem's Old City Friday.
Christian pilgrims carry a wooden cross along the "Via Dolorosa" in Jerusalem's Old City Friday.GALI TIBBON / AFP - Getty Images

For centuries, Christian pilgrims have retraced the last steps of Jesus Christ along Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa.

Tradition says this was the route Jesus took in his final days in the place where he was condemned to die, given a cross, forced to wear a crown of thorns, and ultimately crucified.

But some scholars say Jesus may have trodden another path.

Reverend Hector Patmore, a scholar on the life of Jesus at St. George's College in Jerusalem, says the Via Dolorosa is unlikely to be the right route.

“From a historical point of view this is almost certainly not the route that Jesus took in his final days, in his final hours,” Patmore said.

“But this is a devotional route that's been walked for centuries by pilgrims, and when we walk here we're walking in the footsteps of centuries of pilgrims,” he added.

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The Via Dolorosa winds through Jerusalem's Old City from east to west and passes through 14 stations, each to mark a moment of Jesus's final walk.

To find the actual route, scholars say you need an ancient map to locate the spot where Jesus was tried by the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate and work backwards from there. That traces a much shorter route in the opposite direction, starting at the Tower of David and ending in the same place — the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Patmore says the opinion that the Via Dolorosa route is incorrect is not a controversial one, and that most people are intrigued when they are informed of the alternative route.

“People who want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus are excited to hear that,” he says.

No matter what the spot or the route, he adds, coming here to learn and pray is still an act of faith and devotion.