Latin for "the sorrowful way," the Via Dolorosa refers to the route in Jerusalem taken by Jesus Christ to the site of his execution, the hill called Golgotha.
Speculation has been busy throughout the ages as to the route taken from the Praetorium to Golgotha, and a vast amount of ingenuity based mostly upon ignorance of the topography of Jerusalem has been wasted in describing minutely the Via Dolorosa. It is only necessary to say that the present so-called Via Dolorosa, upon which so much sentimentality has been poured out, cannot possibly have been the street in Jerusalem along which Our Lord passed. I am well aware that an old tradition represents Him as having been marched through the main thoroughfares of the Holy City, so that the crowds assembling for the Passover might see and take warning by His fate. It is also true that the Romans considered it to be part of the death punishment to escort a criminal through the chief streets in order that he might feel his disgrace more acutely; but Christ was not a Roman, nor had He been found guilty of any crime by the Procurator -- who was merely sacrificing Him to please the people -- nor was He being put to death on Roman territory. When Pilate delivered Christ to be crucified he had finished with Him, and it was the executioners and not the governor who chose the site and the route.
Seeing the ferment and uproar that the trial of the Prisoner had caused, and the fury with which His death sentence was forced from the Roman governor by His own countrymen, and knowing also that Jerusalem was crowded for the Feast, it was only likely that the centurion would select the nearest available spot outside the city wall for the site of the execution, and get it over as quickly as possible. We do not know for certain which palace served that morning as the Roman judgement-hall, but of this we may be quite sure that the centurion removed Our Lord by the nearest and least frequented route in order to prevent either a riot or a rescue ; and "modern tradition is clearly at fault in identifying the first part of the Via Dolorosa with a street that lies above the ditch, which at the time of the crucifixion, must have protected the Antonia and the second wall" (Wilson).
Brodrick, Mary. The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. London : John Murray, 1908. pp. 145-147.
Wilson, Sir Charles William. Golgotha and the Holy Sepulchre. London : Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1906.