Visitors walk the stairs that Jesus is believed to have climbed before the crucifixion

ROME, Italy (WPVI) -- Visitors to Rome this Easter can have a once-in-a-lifetime experience: climbing the original stairs that Jesus is said to have walked while on his way up to be judged by Pontius Pilate before his crucifixion.

"The Gospel of John recounts that Jesus went up these stairs several times," said Father Francesco Guerra, Rector of the Holy Stairs.

According to CNN, the Holy Stairs were brought to Rome from Jerusalem in the 4th century.

For the first time in centuries, visitors can now climb the original 28 stairs.

A recent restoration removed the wooden planks that covered the stairs for 300 years and turned up a surprising discovery: deep grooves in the marble caused by centuries of wear and tear from the knees and feet of pilgrims, and drops of Jesus' blood that are said to have fallen on the steps. The drops are marked by medieval crosses in three places.

Frank Scherra, a U.S. soldier stationed in Germany who climbed the stairs with his six children, called the experience "priceless." "It gave me time to reflect and think about people that had an impact on my faith and my family, he said, "And those that I know are in heaven or trying to get there. It was a chance to pray for them."

Others have recounted stories of conversions and deeply emotional experiences from their climb.

At the top of the stairs is a room called the "Holy of Holies." It was once a private chapel of Popes and it contains relics of saints and one of the oldest icons of Jesus found in Rome, dating to the 5th century.

The stairs will soon be covered over again with wood to protect the marble, but for the next few weeks visitors to Rome can literally walk, or at least kneel, on what are believed to be the original footsteps of Jesus.
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