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The Vatican’s Holy Stairs have been covered by planks of wood for more than 300 years. Now, for roughly the next seven weeks, visitors will be able to walk directly on the marble steps where Jesus is said to have walked on his way to his crucifixion.
Just in time for Easter, the steps will be uncovered and exposed thanks to an extensive restoration project. The stairs have been worn down during centuries of kneeling and walking atop them, which is why Pope Innocent XIII decided to protect the important site with wood planks in 1723.
Scala Sancta — the Latin name for the Holy Stairs — are allegedly the exact steps that Jesus walked on leading up to his judgement by Pontius Pilate and later crucifixion. The stairs were said to have been brought from Jerusalem as per the request of Emperor Constantine’s Mother, Helen, in the fourth century, although there is no verifiable proof. According to CNN Travel, Father Francesco Guerra, Rector of the Holy Stairs, said that, “The Gospel of John recounts that Jesus went up these stairs several times.”
It’s even said that his blood dripped onto the steps as marked by medieval crosses, where visitors stop to pay their respects by kissing and touching the crosses.
After experiencing the steps both covered and uncovered by the wood planks, one pilgrim told the Associated Foreign Press that the experience was “much more moving now” without the wood barrier. “If you think about the fact that Jesus was here, and where he was held and where he suffered, it’s very emotional,” the pilgrim recounted.
The stairs, located across from the Basilica of St. John Lateran, will be exposed through June 9, so if you happen to find yourself in Rome between now and then, you can experience the Holy Stairs for yourself. There’s no telling when or if the marble will be uncovered again.
This article has been updated to clarify where the Holy Stairs are located.
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Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images
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