10 April 2020

BOOK EXCERPT: Walking the Via Dolorosa

Book, Figure 36
For this very unusual Good Friday during the Pandemic of 2020, when for the first time in centuries the streets of Jerusalem may well be almost empty of pilgrims, I decided to share the account of my own walking the Via Dolorosa during my pilgrimage to the Holy Land in August 2018, as recounted in my new book, Holy Ramblings: Travelogues, Commentaries, and Meditations on Pilgrimages Far and Wide, available through links at www.holyramblings.com.

It was our last day on the ground, in the afternoon, after spending the day walking down the Mount of Olives from the site of the Ascension to the Basilica of the Agony (also called the Church of All Nations), lunch and a short tour of the Holy Shroud exhibit at the Notre Dame Centre, and entering the Old City of Jerusalem through the Lions’ Gate and visiting the Church of St. Anne and the adjacent ruins of the Pools of Bethesda….

[Most of the following illustrations are not in the book itself.]

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Book Figure 33
Exiting Bethesda through the courtyard fronting St. Anne’s, we went a short distance further up Lions’ Gate Street, and began the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows, an extended walk of about a quarter-mile which is obviously not a “site” per se, but rather a route through the narrow streets of the Muslim Quarter into the Christian Quarter, with various individual locations traditionally associated with the Stations of the Cross formally marked by black disks bearing Roman numerals mounted to the walls of buildings. Other identifications ranging from simple to ornate often accompany those formal disks.

Historically speaking, most scholars consider it doubtful that the traditional “pilgrims’ route” of the Via Dolorosa traces the actual route upon which Our Lord carried the Cross to his place of execution. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor sums up the case quite well.[1] For one thing, it is far more likely that the “Praetorium” in which Pilate would have judged Jesus should be identified with the palace built by Herod the Great, the modern Citadel just inside the Jaffa Gate, than at the Antonia Fortress overlooking the Temple, which was a military barracks and base focusing on keeping a close eye on the troublesome Jews. An abundance of ancient evidence places the Jerusalem residence and headquarters of the Roman procurators at Herod’s Palace, including contemporary Philo of Alexandria, who puts Pilate there on the occasion of an earlier dispute with the Jews, the matter of the golden shields.[2] Condemned there, on the opposite side of the Old City from the traditional spot, Jesus would have carried his Cross on a path coinciding with the traditional route only toward its end – converging on Calvary or Golgotha, now inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Secondly, the tradition placing the Way along its present path only developed during the fourteenth century, as the Franciscans formalized an overall systematic circuit of the holy places that was based more than anything else on servicing the pilgrimage industry most efficiently. Nevertheless, Murphy-O’Connor concludes, “The Via Dolorosa is defined not by history but by faith.”[3] That faith itself – of millions, at least, who have through the last seven centuries walked the present route, which is, even if modern scholars are correct, nonetheless within a few hundred yards of the historical route and ends at the same destination – hallows the religious exercise qua religious exercise. For simplicity’s sake, going forward, I refer to various Stations as “marking the spot where such-and-such happened” and ask that the reader bear in mind the problematic state of such identifications, which I will belabor no further.

The Pilgrims’ Via Dolorosa, as well-walked as it is, is nevertheless not a dedicated way, by which I mean that the streets are part of the everyday life of the Old City, with all the hustle and bustle of the inhabitants going about their business even as pilgrims make their way along it. Shops, markets, and so forth open directly onto the streets. It is as if a way were marked through the middle of Natchitoches, and we were able to walk it devotionally – which we do, of course, every Good Friday – but without the police blocking traffic for us and with considerably narrower streets and greater crowds than we experience back home. In the midst of it all, we walked, carrying small crosses to remind us of the Cross He bore, praying the Rosary, stopping at each Station as Padre led us in the meditations as written by St. Alphonsus Liguori, and praying, “We adore you O Christ, and we praise you, – because by your Cross you have redeemed the world...”:

I. Station: Pilate Condemns Jesus to Death – A further hundred yards or so along the Lion’s Gate Road from the entrance to St. Anne’s Church, to the left, the First Station is commemorated in the courtyard of the El-Omariya Elementary School for Boys.  

And as soon as it was morning the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate. … And having scourged Jesus, [Pilate] delivered him to be crucified. (Mark 15: 1, 15)

Established in the early twentieth century and named for the seventh-century Muslim conqueror of Jerusalem, the El-Omariya School rests atop the site of the Antonia Fortress. It is not often open to pilgrims, never when students are present, and otherwise only at the sufferance of the caretaker, so instead, we turned to the right …

II. Station: Jesus Takes Up His Cross – Across the street from the El Omariya School is a Franciscan Friary. We passed into a courtyard which gave access to two chapels, dedicated respectively to the Flagellation and Condemnation of Jesus.

Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe; they came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. … [T]hey took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. (John 19: 2-3, 17)

In the Chapel of the Flagellation, colorful stained glass depicts the Flagellation and the Crowning with Thorns, Pilate presenting Jesus to the Jews and Barabbas going free, and Pilate washing his hands; the Chapel of the Condemnation marks the spot where Jesus is said to have taken up his Cross. It also contains the “lithostratus,” long assumed to be the flagstone pavement on which Jesus stood. In reality, the flagstones date from about a century later, a product of the same building program as produced a landmark that is not explicitly one of the stations but is associated with the Passion. The flagstones are of direct interest to the Passion, however, in that they contain scratched game-marks inscribed by Roman soldiers such as those who “cast dice” for Our Lord’s seamless garment as he suffered on the Cross (John 19: 23-24).

Perhaps somewhat out of sequence, a bit further along the street is one of the iconic images of the Via Dolorosa, the Ecce Homo arch, commemorating when Pilate presented the scourged Jesus – beaten and bloodied, crowned with thorns – to the Jews (“Behold the man!”) and gave them the choice to free Jesus or Barabbas. They chose Barabbas. We passed under the arch, which is commonly misrepresented as surviving from the Antonia Fortress but was really built by the Emperor Hadrian a century later, in AD 135, after the Second Jewish War (the “Bar Kochba War” of 132-135) left the Jews utterly crushed and expelled from Jerusalem for good, the city being rebuilt as a Roman city, Aelia Capitolina. We continued slightly downhill as the street became very congested with vendors and shops on both sides.

We turned sharply to the left (south) onto El-Wad Street, which to the north leads through dense markets to the Damascus Gate, and to the south generally parallels the western edge of the Temple Mount. At that turn, we saw a small Israeli Security kiosk, manned by (I believe) three heavily armed police, although they seemed at ease. At the time, I thought visible security at that intersection would make sense because I was under the impression that we were passing from the Islamic Quarter to the Christian Quarter, that El-Wad indeed marks the boundary. It does not. So, I am not sure what garners that intersection special attention that is even visible on Google Maps’ Street View (date-stamped Sep 2011) in the form of barricades stacked against the wall, ready for use.

III. Station: Jesus Falls for the First Time – Immediately after turning left onto El-Wad Street, we hooked back to the left into a small Armenian Catholic chapel, passing under a stone relief of Jesus falling. Then, in the entrance hallway, we beheld a stunningly crafted shrine with basically the same image in statue form, backed by a painting of ranks of angels watching and praying in grief. I imagine them waiting and ready for a command to intervene that would not be given.

The Third Station is the first of several traditional Stations of the Cross which are not backed up by Scripture. That is not to say that they did not happen, of course. There is robust and early tradition for some; there is the quite simple human likelihood in the case of others, such as this one. Beaten, scourged, abused, doubtless sleep-deprived, by this time undoubtedly dehydrated and weakened by loss of blood – and bearing upon himself the burden of mankind’s sin – now forced to carry, very likely, a crossbar weighing close to a hundred pounds – it is near certain that Jesus would have fallen, probably several times. If not there, then somewhere along the route.

IV. Station: Jesus Meets His Afflicted Mother – Although this next station was long commemorated a few dozen yards further along the street, it has, in recent years, been moved to the immediately adjacent Armenian Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Spasm. We observed this Station in a courtyard below an elaborately carved monument with a cross, “In Memory of the Armenian martyrs of 1915.”

“Spasm” refers to the intensely emotional sob of grief any mother would suffer at the sight of her child so abused. As prophesied by Simeon in the Temple so many years before (Luke 2: 34), a sword of grief did pierce Our Lady’s heart as she accompanied Jesus to his death….

V. Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry His Cross – Twenty-five yards further on, the Way of the Cross turned to the right, onto Via Dolorosa Street. Immediately on the left, a Latin inscription on the lintel above a door marked the Fifth Station: “SIMONI CYRENAEO CRUX IMPONITUR – THE CROSS IS PLACED UPON SIMON THE CYRENEAN.” All four Gospels record this event, but here I quote only one:

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. (Luke 23: 26)

The door enters the first Franciscan house in Jerusalem, dating to 1229. Having turned the corner, we began the gradual ascent to Golgotha along the stepped street, which got narrower and was covered in areas by awnings and arches. We proceeded about a hundred yards or so….

VI. Station: Veronica Offers Her Veil to Jesus – A wooden door with studded metal bands marks the Greek Melkite Catholic Church of St. Veronica. Another of the several Stations based on tradition rather than Scripture, this church commemorates the brave woman who stepped out of the crowd and wiped Jesus’ face, by this time battered, bloodied, dirty, giving him what comfort she could in the instant before the Roman soldiers would doubtless have shoved her back from the procession. The cloth she still held was then found to bear the imprint of Jesus’ face. The “legend” of St. Veronica and the Holy Face of Jesus long predates the fourteenth-century development of the Stations of the Cross; the Cloth of St. Veronica has been in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome since the eighth century. Rationalists have long taken the “coincidence” of the name “Veronica” with the Latin vera “true” plus Greek icon “image” to indicate the legendary status of the tale, but such a bilingual “folk etymology” makes no sense, and the name could just as easily be a Latinized Hellenistic Jewish form of the Greek name Berenice – which was borne by other Jewish women of the age, most famously the sister of King Herod Agrippa II who became the concubine of the Roman general Titus during the Jewish War a generation later.

VII. Station: Jesus Falls for the Second Time – Seventy-five yards further uphill, at the junction of the Via Dolorosa with the Souq Khan al Zeit (the Oil Market – and the real boundary between the Christian and Islamic Quarters), we paused at what was in the first century the site of the Gate of Judgment, passing through the western wall of the city in the north. It was called the Gate of Judgment because the names of the accused and their sentences were posted here for all to see. The marker appears by an intricately designed red and black door entering a pair of chapels, one above the other. Although we did not go in, the lower chapel is open; the upper chapel is closed to the public. There we commemorated the Seventh Station.

At this point, as I understand it, the traditional pilgrims’ Via Dolorosa we were walking converged with the more likely historical way of the Cross argued by scholars. Either way, Jesus would have passed through the Judgment Gate. Perhaps, and I am just guessing, the titulus bearing the statement of his crime would have been posted here –in this case with a duplicate being given to affix to the Cross itself.

Book Figure 34
VIII. Jesus Speaks to the Women of Jerusalem – Twenty yards further along, outside the city wall of Jesus’ time but still passing through a dense mass of humanity seemingly oblivious to the significance of the events that played out here, in this place, near two thousand years ago, we found the eighth station via a round stone embedded in the rough-hewn stone wall of the Greek monastery of St. Charalambos, an early martyr. Below the marker, a Latin cross with the letters IC XC NI KA in the four quadrants proclaims via an abbreviation for the Greek, “Jesus Christ Conquers.” Such an outcome would not have seemed likely when the women wailed and lamented him….

But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” (Luke 23: 28)

At that point, for some reason that was not explained,[4] we backtracked a short way, then followed what was long ago the Roman Cardo Maximus, the “Main Street” integral to every planned Roman settlement from army camps to full-blown planned cities, such as Roman Jerusalem was after the Jewish city suffered utter destruction in the First and Second Jewish Wars (AD 66-70 and 132-135). We did not go all the way to the excavated portion of the Roman street, only so far as a flight of 28 steps to the right, then up a winding lane to what then would have been within sight of Golgotha, today is a Coptic chapel marked with a column built into the door –

IX. Jesus Falls for the Third Time – The Coptic chapel of St. Helena, the mother of Constantine.

Then, again, we backtracked, made our way a few more yards up the street, then turned right once more and were on St. Helena Street, leading to the courtyard of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, rightfully called the holiest place in Christendom. The last five of the fourteen Stations are inside that massive church, which encompasses what remains of the mount of Calvary on which Jesus “was crucified [and] died,” as well as the Tomb in which he “was buried ... [and] On the third day, … rose again from the dead...” (The Apostles’ Creed). The sites of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection are really within just a few yards of each other (contrary to most people’s – and my own, until recently – mental image), and all beneath one roof within the walls of this great church.

Speaking historically, it is as certain as certain can be that this is indeed the site of Golgotha/Calvary and the Tomb. It was revered as such from a very early period – at least the second century, when, according to the early church historian Eusebius, the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a temple dedicated to the goddess Venus atop the site to preempt Christian worship there. Two hundred years later, the first Christian Emperor Constantine the Great ordered the temple to be replaced by a church – during which construction his mother, St. Helena, is said to have rediscovered the tomb and the True Cross, celebrated on 03 May as the Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross. Much of the rock of Calvary and around the tomb was removed to isolate the two sites and level the ground. Constantine’s church (actually two adjacent chapels in one complex) was damaged by wars, attacks, and earthquakes through the subsequent centuries: the Persians in 614 when they captured and carried off the True Cross (recovered and restored by the Emperor Heraclius in 630, commemorated in the 14 September Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross); long centuries of Muslim rule from 638 – until 1009 when the Mad Caliph Al-Hakim ordered it destroyed completely and helped provoke the First Crusade before the end of the eleventh century despite a meager rebuilding negotiated by the Byzantine Emperor and Al-Hakim’s son at mid-century.

Book Figure 36
The current building is perhaps the most magnificent monument to the First Crusade, called in 1095, at least in part to restore the Holy Sepulcher. Their capture of Jerusalem on 15 July 1099 inaugurated most of a century, the twelfth, of Christian rule over the Kingdom of Jerusalem. By 1187 when Saladin took the city, the great church as it exists today was more or less in place although there have, of course, been extensive repairs, renovations, and even expansions through the following centuries. Like the Basilica of the Nativity, management of the Holy Sepulcher is a complicated “cooperative” between religious communities – Catholic and multiple Orthodox – with even more jealously guarded claims, rights, and privileges giving rise to sometimes ridiculous oddities such as the workman’s ladder which has stood in one place beneath a window overlooking the courtyard for over a century and a half because to remove it would violate one or the other denomination’s rights!

(As an aside, in this case also, there is an “alternative,” however. Protestants generally prefer what is known as “the Garden Tomb” some distance away, “rediscovered” in the nineteenth century by British Major-General Charles Gordon. No reputable scholar today, Catholic or Protestant, disputes the location of the Holy Sepulcher, however. Even the Protestant trust overseeing the Garden Tomb refrains from promoting it as the very site, instead emphasizing it as a better representation of the site described in the Bible. Perhaps it is. But it is not the spot.)

Inside the Holy Sepulcher, one can ascend to the top of Golgotha and the site of the Crucifixion and touch the actual rock; one can venerate the Stone of Unction, where Jesus’ body was laid out for hasty preparation before entombment; and one can view the Tomb, which underwent renovation to much fanfare in 2016. But one cannot do these things quickly. We were in the Church for a long time just standing, awaiting our turn to do these things.[5] Our praying of the last five Stations of the Cross broke down simply because of the press of people, the bustle and the noise. There was no way for us to stay together as a group and pray. Or rather, we did pretty much stay together, but there was no way to pray as a group. We all therefore prayed the remaining Stations individually. Those Stations do, however, make a good organizing scheme for our time in the Church. So, to continue …

X. Jesus is Stripped of His Garments – We made our way in through the left door – the right is sealed shut – noted the people crowded around, kneeling, and venerating the large flat Stone of Unction set into the floor beneath a half-dozen ornate hanging lamps, turned right, and entered a steep, narrow curving staircase up to a cluster of small chapels on Golgotha, Calvary itself. The first we entered, in the custody of the Franciscans and named for its place in the sequence of events during the Passion, was the “Chapel of Divestiture.”

And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. (Matt. 27: 35)

From this point, it was slow progress, moving with the crowd of pilgrims from all over the world. But, straight ahead, we could see a sizable mosaic dominating the far wall behind an altar, depicting:

XI. Jesus is Nailed to the Cross – The ceiling of this “Chapel of the Nailing to the Cross,” which is also in the custody of the Franciscans, contains the only surviving Crusader-era mosaic in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, depicting the Ascension.

Passing through an arch and by a Catholic altar and statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, with a sword piercing her heart, we entered the Greek Orthodox custody and were standing atop Calvary, Golgotha.

XII. Jesus Dies Upon the Cross – Before a large depiction of Christ on the Cross, flanked by the Beloved Disciple on his left, his grieving Blessed Mother on his right, mostly of silver except for the depictions of flesh and wood, there stands an ornate altar, itself flanked by glass boxes on the floor. These latter allow viewing of the rock of Calvary. Through the glass on the right a fissure is visible, said to be the crack left by the earthquake that occurred when Our Lord died.

And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split. (Matt. 27: 50-51)

Each pilgrim, in turn, knelt beneath the altar which covered a narrow shaft down which one could stick one’s arm pretty much up to the elbow – and touch the naked rock of Golgotha.
It was a powerful moment.

Book Figure 37

The Greek Chapel of Calvary is open at the rear, overlooking the entranceway we had come through a half an hour earlier (it seemed longer), the Stone of Unction, and the entrance to the Rotunda where is the Holy Sepulcher itself.

XIII. Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross – Descending stairs at the rear of the chapel opposite where we had ascended, we paused a moment to venerate the Stone of Unction beneath a long mosaic depicting three scenes in order, from right to left: Jesus’ Body being taken down from the Cross; the Blessed Mother and her companions washing and anointing His Body; and His Body being carried into the tomb.

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre. (Matt. 27: 57-61)

XIV. Jesus is Placed in the Sepulcher – Finally, we continued into the large Rotunda, at the center of which is the cubical Edicule in which are two tiny chapels – the Chapel of the Angel and that of the Tomb itself. A marble slab now covers the shelf on which His Body would have lain, but we were allowed in to pray before it ... after a wait for almost exactly two hours in what can only very generously be called a “line”; it was, in reality, a mob inching around the periphery of the Rotunda, a mass of people pressing to get through a small door for a few seconds in that holiest place in Christendom, where Our Lord was dead and rose again to life. It was hot; people were rude (especially a group of Russians, one woman of which kept pressing to push me out of the way, and when I held firm she looked at me and either hissed or spat; I looked back at her and retored, “Pfft to you too!” Not my finest moment, but tempers were short all around). Our slow progress stopped entirely twice, once when the Franciscans sang what we took to be Vespers,[6] and once to accommodate a group of Knights of the Holy Sepulcher who can show up unannounced and immediately gain precedence and private access to the tomb for thirty minutes. But Tony assured us we were actually lucky – imagining the circuit of the Edicule as a clock with the entrance at twelve o’clock, we began our wait at about four o’clock; Tony said he had seen the “line” filling the Rotunda, extending out through the plaza and into the street, with a wait lasting many hours. When I commented that Disney World could give them some pointers on crowd flow management, he replied that the various groups sharing custody of the church would never be able to agree on it.

At about six o’clock of the circuit, I – or rather Jennifer, because there was no way I could maneuver my way there in the crowd! – lit the last of the many candles I set all across the Holy Land for my Jerusalem-born friend Angel and her family, in a small chapel at the opposite end of the Edicule from the entrance to the Holy Sepulcher. It was incredibly ornate, filled with candles. At the time, I was given to believe the chapel was Armenian. Every reference I have seen since, however, lists it as a Coptic chapel. Oh well. It is the same God.

At last, we were allowed to enter through the single small door to the Edicule, passing through the outer chapel and into the Tomb to pray for a few seconds kneeling before a marble slab covering the rock-hewn shelf whereon lay Our Lord’s Body in death through Friday evening, Saturday, and into Sunday – then to be herded back out by one of the friars, who was young but very no-nonsense. That was a thankless job, I’m sure!

Those few seconds were, however, a spiritual highlight of our pilgrimage. We were there – in that place – where occurred the most significant single event in history – the Resurrection.

From the Internet
Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. (Matt. 28: 1-6)

That we did.

Exiting the Holy Sepulcher, we were to gather in the courtyard. Passing by the Stone of Unction we found that the crowd had thinned considerably, and some of our number venerated it again without the hustle and bustle.

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From there, it being past 19:00 and the narrow streets of the Old City quickly darkening, we made our way out of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate where our bus awaited us, back to our hotel in Bethlehem, and prepared for our departure early the next morning. My (hopefully just the first) pilgrimage to the Holy Land came to its end.

Thanks for reading.

[1] Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, “Tracing the Via Dolorosa,” Chapter 5 in Jesus: The Last Day – A Collection of Essays Published by the Biblical Archaeology Society, ed. Molly Dewsnap Meinhardt (Washington: Biblical Archaeology Society, 2003), pp. 71-89, which forms the major source for what follows here.
[2] Pilate displayed, inside the Roman headquarters and therefore out of sight of the Jews, golden shields honoring the Emperor Tiberius. Out of sight, he doubtless thought the Jews would have no complaint. He was wrong. Although he seems to have purposely left off the image of the emperor that was customary on such mementos, Pilate did include the usual inscriptions with their clear implication of imperial divinity. Such an affront against the First Commandment, within the very precincts of Jerusalem, was all it took to incite the Jews to formally protest, eventually to the emperor himself.
[3] Murphy-O’Connor, “Via Dolorosa,” p. 88.
[4] It was not explained, but I have a theory. The present walking path must adhere to streets and paths weaving around buildings that were obviously not there at the time of the Crucifixion. Assuming that, whether the full Way of the Cross started at the Antonia or Herod’s Palace, it passed through a gate where is the Seventh Station, Jesus would almost certainly have carried his Cross from that point to the peak of Calvary directly past the points where are the Eighth and Ninth Stations.
[5] In actuality, we were not in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as long as it seemed. Time seemed to slow down. I was astonished later, after returning home, to examine the time stamps of photographs that I took, allowing me to reconstruct a time-line for our afternoon in the Old City, walking the Via Dolorosa, and our time in the Holy Sepulcher, from our entry through the Lions’ Gate to our exit through the Jaffa Gate, to see how short a time it really was. Note that the following are not arrival times; they are the minutes when I snapped certain photographs:
14:51  We were at the Lions’ Gate
15:08  We were in the Church of St. Anne
15:44            We were on the Via Dolorosa
16:09           We were at the Armenian Holocaust Memorial
16:29            We were in the courtyard outside the Holy Sepulcher
16:48           We were at the Greek Orthodox Chapel of Calvary
16:56            We were back down at the Stone of Unction
16:59            We were in the line around the back of the Rotunda
18:58           We were about to be allowed into the Edicule
19:20           We were leaving through the Jaffa Gate
Of our slightly less than three hours in the great church, almost precisely two were occupied awaiting entry to the Holy Sepulcher. It all seemed longer.
[6] On further research, I am not sure this was Vespers. I discovered, at the Franciscan Custody website for the Holy Sepulcher, a page, “Time at the church and of the services” [http://www.sepulchre.custodia.org/default.asp?id=4128] accessed 19 September 2018, which lays out the schedule along with the fascinating fact that inside the Church it is always “winter time” – “as the agreed rules do not allow for changing to ‘summer time’. As a result, times of summer services are one hour later (by the watch) than in the winter.” In the afternoon, “at 16.00 the Franciscan community leads a procession throughout the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, departing from the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and stopping in each of the chapels along the eastern ambulatory, descending also to the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross and exiting from Calvary to rejoin the Edicule of the Tomb. The procession concludes with the Eucharistic Blessing at the point of departure.” This sounds like what we saw, which would have been at 17:00 by my watch, I think.

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