Following Steps of Jesus Walking Tour, Jerusalem

Following Steps of Jesus Walking Tour (Self Guided), Jerusalem

Considered for centuries to be the center of the universe, Jerusalem is where the most famous figure in history, Jesus of Nazareth, fulfilled his divine mission by carrying a cross from the place of Pontius Pilate’s sentencing to Golgotha where he was crucified. This self-guided tour will retrace the steps of Jesus, allowing you to see what many consider some of the holiest places on our planet.

To take in all the sights it is wisest to start at the top of the Mount of Olives, near the Chapel of the Ascension, and walk downhill to the Tomb of the Virgin. The Old City panoramas are best in the morning, and the view of the Dome of the Rock from the Dominus Flevit’s altar window is justly famous. While the exact location of Jesus’s prayer and reflection is not known, it was in the general location of the Garden of Gethsemane – still a hive of olive trees.

Passing through the Lion’s Gate from the mount into the Old City, just like Jesus did, you will enter a quiet courtyard with trees and flowers for some rest. The compound contains the Church of St Anne and the large excavation area of the Pools of Bethesda, whose waters, believed to have medicinal qualities, were used by Jesus to cure a man who “had an infirmity thirty and eight years”, according to the Gospel of St John.

Walk the Stations of the Cross – the path that Jesus walked carrying the cross to Calvary. Via Dolorosa, all within the ancient city walls, is breathtaking and humbling at the same time. Go inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and visit the tomb as well as the stone where Jesus was anointed with oils and wrapped in burial cloths.

Our self-guided walk takes you to these and other significant places to be experienced without need of a guide. Give it a shot!
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Following Steps of Jesus Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Following Steps of Jesus Walking Tour
Guide Location: Israel » Jerusalem (See other walking tours in Jerusalem)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Chapel of the Ascension
  • Church of the Pater Noster
  • Dominus Flevit Church
  • Garden of Gethsemane
  • Tomb of the Virgin Mary
  • Lions’ Gate
  • St. Anne's Church
  • Pool of Bethesda
  • Ecce Homo Convent
  • Via Dolorosa
  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre / Christ's Tomb
  • Garden Tomb
Chapel of the Ascension

1) Chapel of the Ascension

Part of a larger complex consisting first of a Christian church and monastery, then an Islamic mosque, the Chapel of the Ascension is located on a site the faithful traditionally believe to be the earthly spot where Jesus "was carried up into heaven" 40 days after the Resurrection – an impression of a rock inside the small octagonal shrine is regarded as the footprint Jesus left as he ascended.

Before the point in history where Emperor Constantine was converted to the faith, early Christians held special celebrations honoring Christ's return to heaven in a cave located on the Mount of Olives (most likely, the cavern was used for the safety and security of worshippers). Poimenia, a famous Roman Lady of means, built the first chapel here around the year 390, but the present building was erected by the Crusaders, and subsequently converted into a mosque by Salah ad-Din in 1198, with a mihrab pointing towards Mecca (in the south wall) added shortly after. The presence of a mosque on the site is not as bizarre as it might seem, considering that Islam recognizes Jesus as a prophet.

The tiny burial crypt next to the mosque is revered by all three local religions: Jews believe it contains the 7th-century BCE prophetess Huldah, Christians believe it to be the tomb of the 5th-century saint Pelagia the harlot, or the penitent; while Muslims maintain that the 8th-century Sufi mystic and wali, Rabi'a al-Adawiyya is buried there. What is certain is that the Christian tradition of Saint Pelagia is the oldest.

If you want to visit this place, try to do so when there are not too many people inside. Arriving before or after prayer time (before or after noon) should be fine.
Church of the Pater Noster

2) Church of the Pater Noster

South of the Chapel of the Ascension, past a grove of ancient olive trees, this church is set in an enclosed garden and built over the grotto (cave) in which Jesus preached on the ultimate conflict of good and evil leading to the end of the world. The Crusaders, believing it to also be the place where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's Prayer, gave the church its present name – Pater Noster being Latin for "Our Father".

The original Basilica of Olives, built under the direction of St Helena in AD 326, was destroyed by the Persians 300 years later, its partly restored ruins interesting to see. The building that stands here today dates from the late 19th century when the site was supervised by contemplative Carmelite nuns.

Inside, a short flight of stairs from the south side of the open courtyard leads to the tomb of the Princesse de la Tour d'Auvergne who bought the property in 1868 and had the Lord's Prayer inscribed in 62 languages on exquisitely tiled panels in the entrance and cloister (their number has more than doubled since then, also including various dialects).

If unsuccessful in finding your own language, ask for help in the shop – they have a map of all panels/plaques.
Dominus Flevit Church

3) Dominus Flevit Church

Its name meaning "The Lord Wept", this chapel on the western slope of the Mount of Olives recalls the incident in the Gospels where Jesus, while riding toward the city of Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, had his "great lament" for the future fate of the Jewish people and of the Second Temple. Designed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi to stylize the shape of a teardrop, it was built in the 1950s on the ruins of a 7th-century chapel, with part of the original apse preserved.

The views over the Dome of the Rock / Old City from both the altar window and the serene gardens are justly famous and enough to justify a visit. Full of symbolism, both physically and spiritually, Dominus Flevit also has a collection of ossuaries (100 BC to 300 AD) one can observe just after entering its gates and, more importantly perhaps, a fine early Christian mosaic, to the side of the church door.
Garden of Gethsemane

4) Garden of Gethsemane (must see)

A place of great resonance in Christianity, this beautiful walled garden at the bottom of the Mount of Olives, revered since the apostolic period, is the site where – according to the four Gospels of the New Testament – Jesus experienced the agonizing premonition of his passion and death, and where he was arrested the night before his crucifixion. The name is Aramaic for "oil press" and most certainly refers to the fact that the area was once used to press olive oil.

Beyond the religious significance, the garden is essentially an urban olive orchard, with eight distinctive ancient trees among others. Carbon dating estimates the eight trees to be over 900 years old (as such, amongst the oldest known to science), having descended from the same parent tree – possibly itself a descendant from the original trees of Christ's time. They still produce fruit but are fenced off so unless you gracefully tip the gatekeeper, you can't go walking among them.

Also be sure to visit the adjacent Church of All Nations, also known as the Basilica of the Agony, which holds inside a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest. It was built in 1924 with funds contributed by twelve nations, hence the name and the twelve domes bearing national coats of arms. Silence is enforced, so it's usually quite peaceful.

Make very sure your knees, shoulders and upper arms are properly covered, preferably with clothing and not just a shawl, or you will be refused entry. Women should definitely avoid shorts of any length.
Tomb of the Virgin Mary

5) Tomb of the Virgin Mary

Believed to be where the Disciples laid the Virgin Mary to rest, this underground sanctuary in the Valley of Jehoshaphat – right outside the City Walls and next to Gethsemane – is one of Jerusalem's most intimate and mystical holy sites.

The fairly nondescript facade, the impressive flight of nearly 50 steps built by the Crusaders, and the side tombs halfway down (believed to have been used for royal burials during the Crusader period) all date from the 12th century. The tomb on the right, going down, is venerated as that of Mary's parents, St Anne and St Joachim.

At the bottom of the staircase, in the eastern branch of the crypt, you will find iconic images of the Virgin Mary as well as a richly decorated aedicule (shrine) on the place believed to be where Mary was laid to rest. While smaller, this structure resembles the aedicule at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which marks the Tomb of Christ.

Worshippers and visitors often come here to attend religious services held by Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Armenian, Syrian and Ethiopian Christians who all share the altar. Since Islam venerates "sister Mary", you will also find a mihrab indicating the direction of Mecca, with Muslims being granted use of the area to pray.

Why You Should Visit:
The tomb is very well maintained and it is certainly something Christians should like to see.
The church is the only one in the world where you go DOWN the steps to enter.

Admission is free and it is open from 6 until noon, closing for lunch like many Holy Sites and re-opening from 2:30-5pm.
Lions’ Gate

6) Lions’ Gate

The Lions’ Gate takes its name after the pairs of stone animals carved into the design. Legend has it that sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who built the wall around Jerusalem in the 16th century, had a nightmare in which he saw lions about to devour him as he had failed to secure defenses for this part of the citadel.

Waking up, he ordered a wall to be built with the lions placed at the city gate. There are speculations as to whether the carvings are actually lions and not panthers, in which case they may depict animals from the crest of the Mameluke sultan Baybars, and thus be part of an older building.

Another name for this point of entry is “Bab Sitt Maryam” and it refers to Mary, mother of Jesus. Legend has it that she has been laid to rest somewhere around the Kidron Valley. In Christian tradition and lore, this gate is also known as St. Stephen's, the first Christian martyr who was stoned to death. On a Palm Sunday, there is a procession recreating the historical route of Jesus from Scripture, passing through the gate from the Mount into the Old City.

The Arabic name for the gate is "Meshikuli", which in more modern terms means “wicket” – a small opening in a wall – through which, back in the day, people could watch those approaching and, in case of attack, pour boiling oil or tar onto the enemies' heads.

Why You Should Visit:
Impressive and incredibly well-preserved historic sight, considering it has never been restored!

Can get crowded, especially on Fridays, because of the influx of Muslims coming for prayer at the nearby al-Aqsa Mosque.
St. Anne's Church

7) St. Anne's Church (must see)

St. Anne’s Church is found next to the Bethesda Pool by the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem, almost at the outset of the Via Dolorosa and, as with most structures in the city, the history of this location is fascinating. This church is a great example of a 12th-century Crusader house of worship. Although throughout centuries the building has been used in many different ways, most of its original design, rather severe in appearance, has been preserved, in large part, due to the 19th century restoration.

St. Anne’s was built in 1131-1133 over the presumed site where grandmother of Jesus, Anne, gave birth to his mother, Mary. As such, the church replaced the destroyed Byzantine temple that stood on this site previously. One of the interesting things about it is the asymmetry. When visiting, be sure to check out the asymmetrical style, count the number of steps on the one side and then the other.

Another peculiarity is the incredible acoustics of the building. Designed to accommodate Gregorian chants, the church is open to singers, but only those with religious repertoire. Music from any religion is welcome. The reverberations are simply phenomenal, particularly for the tenor or soprano solo voices.

Why You Should Visit:
Landmark location – at the start of the Via Dolorosa, above street level.
Attractive architecture – rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 12th century, the church is also historically interesting.
Extremely beautiful church garden.
Excavations of the Pools of Bethesda may induce those archaeologically-minded to stick around a bit longer.

If you intend to visit, come early in the morning so as to enjoy this place while it's not so crowded.
If you come here to sing alone or with a group, take advantage of the acoustics and hold the last note to let the room sustain it for you. The reverb is measured in seconds.
Pool of Bethesda

8) Pool of Bethesda

The Pool of Bethesda is a small body of water found in the Muslim part of Jerusalem, en route to the Beth Zeta Valley. In the Bible, there is an account of such place near the Sheep Gate, encircled with five grand colonnades. Its water is considered to have healing properties.

While there is no conclusive evidence that this is the pool mentioned in the Gospel (the only recorded mention of it is that in the writing of John), many a people regard this place sacred all the same.

The existence of this place was confirmed in the 19th century when archaeologists discovered remnants of the pool which coincidentally matched to a tee the detailed description from the New Testament.

This tranquil location is a must-visit for those in the belief that this is the source of healing water mentioned in the Bible. However, even the non-believers may find it interesting from a purely archaeological standpoint.
Ecce Homo Convent

9) Ecce Homo Convent

Thousands of pilgrims each year walk under the impressive stone arch spanning the narrow Via Dolorosa in the Muslim Quarter, near Station I and II, without realizing the extensive remains of first-century Jerusalem lying beneath their feet. For centuries many believed this arch was part of an ancient arch in the Antonia Fortress where, according to the New Testament (John 19-15), the Roman governor Pontius Pilate presented Jesus — beaten, crowned with thorns and clothed in a purple robe — to a hostile mob with the words: “Ecce Homo” (“Behold the man” or “This is the man” in Latin), prior to sentencing him to death.

This belief persists in many publications, although archaeologists prove that this arch was built after the times of Jesus. Some say it was originally a city gate from the Herod Agrippa I period (41-44 AD), while others reckon it is a remaining part of the monumental ramp built by the Romans in 70 AD during the Jewish Rebellion, whereas others claim it was part of the three-arch Roman victory gate that served entrance to a great public forum (plaza) constructed by emperor Hadrian during reconstruction of the city in 135 AD — a century after Jesus was crucified.

A big central arch seen in the street today used to have smaller arches on both sides. Eventually, the small northern arch was integrated into the adjacent Convent of the Sisters of Zion, built in 1857; one can enter the monastic church and view the northern arch free of charge. The Church of Ecce Homo, also known as the Basilica of Ecce Homo, is named for Pontius Pilate's Ecce Homo speech, which is likely to have taken place on the pavement below this church.
Via Dolorosa

10) Via Dolorosa (must see)

Via Dolorosa is the Latin for the “Way of Grief” or the “Way of Suffering”. It is interesting that while most signs in Jerusalem are in Hebrew, English and Arabic, this road is the only one known by its Latin name. The road is popular among Christian pilgrims who believe it traces the steps of Jesus carrying a cross en route to his crucifixion.

14 Stations mark the path along this route, including five of them within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Although anyone can walk the Via Dolorosa at any time, every Friday around 3pm, a group is lead by the Franciscan monks along the path, offering the best way to experience the walk. This area can be very crowded and the signs a bit hard to find. At spots, the walk backtracks a bit and station IX can be particularly difficult to locate. Some may find the noisy streets a bit distracting while searching for a quiet spot to pray or contemplate the area's religious significance.

There have been several different versions of the path throughout history; the current one was set in the 1700s and follows the route charted by the early Byzantine Christians. The stations are marked with the round signs, showing Roman numerals, marking the Stations of the Cross. Different religious groups start the walk at different sites.

Usually, the journey begins at the site where Jesus was tried and convicted, in the Muslim part of Old Jerusalem – near Lion’s gate, although some may opt for Herod’s Palace at the Jaffa Gate. The route ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and covers approximately 500 meters.

There is no entrance fee to the Via Dolorosa. There are many churches along the way to visit and several gift shops offering religious items. Re-enactments are frequently held along the Via Dolorosa, especially around the Holy Week.

The cobbled stone path can be very slippery. If it rains, some of the road sections must be walked with extreme caution. Certain parts can be rather steep, with many stairs and inclines.
Unless you wake up at 5am, don't expect much time for a quiet contemplation here, as there's too much hustle & bustle around and you will need to walk quickly or be run over by a motorcycle, human, or a goat!
Best come with a tour guide or bring a very comprehensive map/book and have a camera ready! Besides the spiritual significance of the area, the artwork and architecture are quite impressive too.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre / Christ's Tomb

11) Church of the Holy Sepulchre / Christ's Tomb (must see)

The spiritual heart of Jerusalem's Christian Quarter and a magnet for pilgrims from across the globe since the 4th century, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (also called the Church of the Resurrection or Church of the Anastasis by Eastern Christians) contains, according to traditions dating back to at least the 4th century, the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus was crucified – at a place known as Calvary or Golgotha; and Jesus's empty tomb where he is said to have been buried and resurrected. Enclosed by a 19th-century shrine called the Aedicula, the latter draws many worshippers to services and ceremonies during various times of the day, with staff seeking to manage the number of visitors to prevent overcrowding. As such, be patient if you want to see the tomb – it can take a while.

The church proper is rather an odd hodgepodge of styles: a mix of humble and simple in spots and ornate in others. Within it are the last four (or, by some definitions, five) stations of the Via Dolorosa, representing the final episodes of the Passion of Jesus. The main denominations sharing property over parts of the church under the Status Quo are the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic, and to a lesser degree the Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopian Orthodox.

There are numerous chapels to see here, each with its own special section of this holy ground. Directly beneath Calvary is the Chapel of Adam, which the ancient tradition holds is where the biblical character Adam, the first man, was buried. Behind the aedicule is the Coptic Chapel where more of the tomb is visible, but the Chapel of the Prison of Christ, the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, and the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross are also open for visitation.

Come early and bring a guidebook. Nothing is signposted and there are no guides, so if you'd rather not bring a guidebook, at least do some research first. Proper dress is required for entering the temple.
Garden Tomb

12) Garden Tomb (must see)

This archaeological site in a landscape setting, outside but within view of the city walls, is particularly popular with Protestants, who see it as a more authentic form of sacred space than the traditional Church of the Holy Sepulchre inside the city. The Anglican staff running the place make no dogmatic claims that it is the actual tomb of Jesus' resurrection; however, because it fits so well with the text of the Gospels, it remains to many an intriguing possibility and, more importantly, a visual reminder that "He is not here, for He is Risen"!

Regardless of faith, the Garden Tomb is 'felt' by many as the most peaceful spot in Jerusalem, bringing a very welcome contrast to the noise of a very lively city. At the end of your visit, you will have at least seen a tomb that is at least similar to that of Jesus, and you will have heard a beautiful testimony of the saving power of the empty tomb. You will have experienced a lovely communion of believers from so many different countries singing in their native languages. If you are a Christian, you will be truly moved; if you are a skeptic, you might be impressed, too.

Email in advance if you'd like a guided tour. It takes around 20 mins and the rest of the time is yours to reflect, read, take pictures...

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