The Jesus Trail
The Jesus Trail
I originally began this blog, Walking with Iñigo — the Ignatian Camino, following in the footsteps of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, when I was walking the Ignatian Camino (from Loyola in the Basque Country to Manresa in Catalonia) with a group of 20 pilgrims in September-October, 2013. My objective was to help to promote the Ignatian Camino. I have also walked other Caminos, such as the Camino Frances from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain and the MacKillop-Woods Way from Portland to Penola in Australia, a seven-day hike in the states of Victoria and South Australia which I have written about in this blog. Now I am about to embark on the Jesus Trail in Israel, and I will write about this experience over the next week.
What is the Jesus Trail?
The Jesus Trail is a 65-kilometre hiking trail in the Galilee region of Israel which connects important sites from the life of Jesus as well as other historical and religious sites. The Jesus Trail offers pilgrims the experience walking in the footsteps of Jesus.
The route begins in Nazareth and passes through Zippori National Park, Cana, Ilaniya, Kibbutz Lavi, the Horns of Hattin, Nebi Shu’eib, Arbel National Park, Migdal, the Jesus Boat at Kibbutz Ginosar, Tabgha, the Mount of Beatitudes, and Capernaum.
How do we know this is where Jesus actually walked?
Jesus spent the bulk of his life and ministry in the Galilee region, and we can be certain that he walked between the towns and villages mentioned in the New Testament. Most towns and villages from scripture have historical ruins that can be traced back to the first century, and geography often defines and limits the best ways that people would choose to travel on foot between these places.
Galilee in the time of Jesus
Some sections of the Jesus Trail trace paved Roman roads and other ancient paths which Jesus would have walked.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
As this blog is named Walking with Iñigo — the Ignatian Camino,following in the footsteps of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, you might ask what the connection is with Saint Ignatius of Loyola. In fact there is a connection. Iñigo made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1523, and I am following his footsteps. However, he visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem only. He did not have time to travel to Galilee because a war was about to break out and the Franciscans were anxious that all pilgrims leave. (To read Ignatius’ own account of his time in the Holy Land, which is taken from his Autobiography, please click here to download Inigo’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land.)
He told Lius Conçalves da Camara, the Jesuit to whom he dictated his Autobiography, that:
When he thought of going to Jerusalem barefoot and of eating nothing but plain vegetables and practicing all the rigours that he saw in the saints not only was he consoled when he had the thoughts but even after putting them aside he remained satisfied and joyful.
In the spring of 1523 Iñigo López de Loyola followed his dream. He left Manresa and set out for Barcelona on his way to Rome, where he arrived on Palm Sunday. After two weeks he left Rome, having received the blessing of Pope Adrian VI to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He then went to Padua and on to Venice, where he begged for his bread and slept in the Piazza di San Marco until a rich Spaniard gave him shelter and obtained an order from the Doge for a passage in a pilgrim ship bound for Cyprus, from where he could get to Jaffa. On 31st August 1523 disembarked at Jaffa.
Peter Paul Ruben’s depiction of Ignatius boarding the ship in Venice for the Holy Land
He had, for over a year, longed to go to Jerusalem and to visit those places where Jesus had been physically present as Francis of Assisi had done before him.
Map of Ignatius’ sea voyage to the Holy Land
The Port of Jaffa where Ignatius disembarked
The Old City of Jaffa — it would have looked something like this when Ignatius visited in 1523
Now he was in the Holy Land he could imitate Jesus by visiting the same towns He did, and helping souls as He did. He was there for three weeks visiting the holy places. Juan Polanco—who was Ignatius’ secretary when he was General—tells us that in the Holy Land Iñigo developed a plan: “To remain in that land for his own greater profit as well as that of the infidel (ie. Muslims) preaching the Christian faith and doctrine to them.”
He knew that this would not be easy, but he was ready to suffer as Christ did in order to join him in saving souls. However, he was told by the Franciscan superior — who had authority over Roman Catholics in the Holy Land — that the situation was too dangerous. At the time the Turks were the rulers of the Holy Land. Some pilgrims had been kidnapped, some killed and others held for ransom which severely depleted the financial resources of the Franciscan Friars. The Franciscan Provincial ordered Iñigo to leave and informed him that he had the power to excommunicate him if he did not go. Iñigo obediently departed having bowed to legitimate ecclesial authority. His desire to live in the Holy Land was frustrated but Iñigo was not defeated.
We know from Ignatius’ Autobiography that he desired to go the Mount Olivet a second time before he left Jerusalem. He did so without a guide, or permission:
After this, returning to where he was before, he was seized with a great longing to visit Mount Olivet again before he departed, since the Divine Will would not suffer him to remain in those holy places. On that mountain is a rock from which Our Lord ascended to heaven, on which even now His footprints are visible. And this is what he wished to see again. Therefore, without telling any one, and without a guide, although it was a dangerous thing to go without a Turkish guard, secretly withdrawing he went to Mount Olivet alone. As the guards would not allow him to enter, he gave them his knife. After great consolation in prayer he desired to go to Bethphage. When he reached that place, he thought that on Mount Olivet he had not noticed the position of the right foot of Our Lord and that of the left. He came a second time, and gave his scissors to the guards to allow him to enter. Afterward when at the monastery it was discovered he had gone without a guide, a great search was made for him. Coming down from Mount Olivet he met a girdled Christian, those who are bound to wear a girdle to distinguish them from the Mussulmans; this man, pretending to be very angry, threatened him with a large stick, and approaching, firmly grasped him by the arm. He allowed himself to be led, but the good man once he had hold of him did not let him go. In the meantime, as he was thus led along a captive, he was visited with great consolation, as he seemed to see Christ walking above him. And this continued until he reached the monastery.
A servant of the Franciscans drags Ignatius back from chapel of Ascension
As Ignatius is expelled from the Holy Land, Christ appears to him (Iglesia de San Pedro, Lima, Peru)
The building housing the stone from which Jesus ascended and into which Inigo had to bribe his way
I too place my foot there
Apparently the same Muslim family that had possession of this holy site in Ignatius’ time still owns it today, and you still pay to get in.
Now that Inigo’s desire to remain in the Holy Land has been frustrated what is next?
We know that Ignatius then proceeded to get an excellent theological education at various universities in Spain (Barcelona, Alcala) and ten years later finished studies with a Master of Arts from the University of Paris — at that time the premiere university in Europe.
The First Companions vow to go to Jerusalem
In 1534, Ignatius and his six companions made a vow to go to Jerusalem or, should that be impossible, to offer their services to the Pope.
Ignatius and the First Companions make a vow to go to the Holy Land
In June 1537 — almost fourteen years after he first went to Jerusalem — Ignatius and his first companions planned to sail to the Holy Land, “but rumours of war and the threat from the Turks meant that no one dared sail to the East… They were disappointed especially as the new priests had hoped to celebrate their first Mass in the Holy Land.”  Instead they went to Rome where they presented a proposal for a new religious order, the Society of Jesus, to Pope Paul III in 1539, a proposal accepted by the Pope in 1540, over the objections of some cardinals. Ignatius was elected Superior General of the new order, and devoted the rest of his life to governance of what became known as the Jesuits. Michael Ivens comments:
Ignatius’ pristine desire to live as a pilgrim in the Holy Land would have died as an effective force had he not accepted first to be moved from the Holy Land and eventually to be persuaded by Pope Paul III that the wider world was a ‘true and good Jerusalem’, and thus to have his self-image as ‘pilgrim’ expanded into parameters utterly beyond the limits of his original desire.
Ignatius could now say: “The whole world will be my Jerusalem!”
 Parmandanda R. Divarkar. Testament and Testimony: the memoirs of Ignatius of Loyola. India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash. (2003), 20.
 Francis of Assisi probably visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem in 1219. We know that during his recovery Ignatius reflected on the lives of the saints he had been reading about, and began to ask himself: “What if I were to do what Saint Francis did, or to do what Saint Dominic did?” He actually did what St Francis did.
 Juan Alfonso de Polanco quoted by Gerald Coleman in Walking with Inigo: a commentary on the Autobiography of St Ignatius. India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash. (2001), 90.
 Gerald Coleman. Walking with Inigo, 185.
 Michael Ivens. “Desire and Discernment.” The Way Supplement, (Summer, 1999), 41.