Around church walls across the world are fourteen pictures depicting the final journey of Jesus through Jerusalem, to his death. Praying these 'stations of the cross' is part of the Catholic Lenten tradition, particularly on Good Friday. Visit Jerusalem itself, however, and you can stop at each of these Stations in reality, tracing Jesus' steps, whether in homage or out of general interest. Also known as the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross), you trace the Via Dolorosa (Mournful Way), a mini-pilgrimage through the winding streets of the Old Town. Here is a description of the stations, with some biblical references too. 1st Station: Jesus is condemned to death
The journey starts with Jesus condemned to death by Pontius Pilate (See Mark 15:15, or Luke 23:24). Most of the stations are marked clearly by a Roman numeral, but in some places, you need to look out for longer Latin biblical quotations.
The second station involves Jesus shouldering his cross and beginning the journey to Calvary. Before he does so, texts such as Matthew 27 describe the soldiers tormenting him, beating him and putting a crown of thorns upon his head. This is also marked along the way, over a now bricked-up arch.
Not all the stations are explicitly mentioned in the gospels, and there have been variations suggested over time (including a revision by Pope Benedict XVI). Station 3 is not mentioned in the gospels but prefigures the falls when others come to help him. The site is now an Armenian church.
Women play a central part in the Passion stories, with both individual women and groups of women mentioned in the gospels. This station is not, however, a gospel story, and there is no clear evidence for it being part of the Catholic tradition until medieval times.
7th Station: Jesus falls the second time
Jesus falls again, and the station is marked by a simple numeral on the busy streets of Jerusalem. Many of the stations are now part of the market thronging around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the religious significance of the place lost in the hubbub of daily life. If you want time to find the signs in peace, go early in the morning, or on a Saturday when the Jewish Sabbath means things are much quieter.
The gospels tell the story of Jesus' clothes being taken away and assigned by lot, or gambled for, by the soldiers (see Matthew 27:35 Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34) fulfilling the references in the Old Testament (e.g. Psalm 22:18) for this being the fate of the Messiah.
You move on through the Catholic chapel into the Orthodox one, where a large cross hangs over a small altar, under which you can put your hand down through a hole to feel the top of Golgotha, of the limestone rock on which the cross was placed.
13th Station: The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross
In the entrance to the church is a rock of anointing, placed roughly between Calvary and the tomb, marking where Jesus was lain after he had died, to be prepared for burial. The scene is depicted on the wall behind, and many people stop to kiss and venerate the stone.
14th Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb
The tomb itself has been exposed from the surrounding rock and encased in marble. You can queue to get in, which may take an hour or more at peak times. Here marks the place where Jesus' body lay until the resurrection, finishing this physical re-enactment of his last hours. Tracing the stations of the cross brings the idea of a real, historical Jesus to life, and is a moving and thought-provoking experience, whether or not you are a Christian believer.
All stations are in free places, whether in the old town or in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The streets are narrow, crowded, and liable to go up and down unexpectedly, so be prepared for it not to be entirely easy walking. For more on the Catholic prayers accompanying this series of stations, see for example the BBC, or a Catholic Encyclopedia.