The First Station of the Cross
See Where Jesus was Condemned to Die
Location - The Via Dolorosa
Map Coordinates - 31.780397, 35.234196
Merged Gospels, Stories 271-278
All of our Octagon Tour visitors get the chance to walk down the Via Dolorosa, the same path on which Jesus carried the cross to Calvary.
At the first station you can see the courtyard of the Umariya Muslim Elementary School in Jerusalem's Old City. It is from this spot where the Franciscans always begin their journey through the Stations of the Cross.
According to the traditions of the church, Jesus carried His cross down a road that is today called the Via Dolorosa, which means the Way of Sorrows.
The current Via Dolorosa is about fifteen feet higher than the street level of the city of Jerusalem 2000 years ago. When Jesus took up His cross, the distance that He walked to Mount Golgotha was about one-third of a mile going westward. In other words, the way of the cross is about 2000 feet long. That’s the length of six-and-a-half football fields. An average person can walk this path in about eight minutes. Jesus took a lot longer.
Christians have been taking faith walks down Via Dolorosa since the early years of the church. Up until the 16th century there were only eight recognized stations of the cross.
The stations of the cross were either historical or legendary places for pilgrims to stop along the way for spiritual contemplation. But in the 16th century the churches in Europe convinced the church in Jerusalem to expand the number of stations to fourteen, and to call this road The Via Dolorosa. Ever since then Catholic friars have been conducting one-hour tours down the Via Dolorosa at 3 PM every Friday, in the belief that Friday was the day of the week when Jesus was crucified, and that 3 PM was the time of day that He died.
The First Station of the Cross recalls the moment that Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to the cross in this very spot. His business for the day probably brought Him here, to the second floor of the Antonia Fortress, next to the Temple Mount. This was Passover, and this Jewish holiday made the Temple Mount a potential flashpoint for trouble.
Jesus met with Pilate three times, and tradition tells us that Jesus had to ascend a flight of 28 marble stairs in order to do so. The same legend says that in 335 AD these stairs were moved to Rome, and reassembled, where today they are called the Scala Sancta, or the Holy Stairs.
The Scala Santa in Rome.
On the south side of the street, where the Station 1 disk is, there used to be a large Roman fortress, call the Antonia Fortress. According to tradition, it is here where Pilate tried Jesus.
The Antonia Fortress.
Pontius Pilate did not want to condemn Jesus. But being as heartless as he was, he probably would not have cared about this one man dying, if it were not for his wife, who advised him not to have anything to do with Jesus. Pilate tried several times to release Him, but a riot was brewing in the streets of Jerusalem, and he knew that the security of his job as Roman governor was in danger if things got out of hand. He took the coward’s way out, and condemned Jesus to death. It should not surprise you to learn that Pilate killed himself just a few years later.