History of Palm Sunday: How it starts Holy Week

Bill Petro
5 min readApr 7, 2022
Triumphal Entry

The week we now call Holy Week or Passion Week starts this weekend with Palm Sunday. Why was this week so important that three of the gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) devote a full third of their contents to reporting this week, and The Fourth Gospel (John) dedicates its entire last half?

Jerusalem, which had a normal population of about 50,000 at the time of Jesus, had at least tripled in size because of the influx of pilgrims celebrating the Jewish holiday Passover. Early Sunday morning, Jesus made his dramatic public entry into the city. This was the end of any privacy and safety his ministry had afforded previously. It marked the beginning of an inevitable collision course with the religious and political authorities: both Jewish and Roman.

Geography of Palm Sunday

Mount of Olives

The procession started at the Mount of Olives, across the land bridge of the Kidron Valley that ran along the eastern side of the city and through the eastern gate into the city. There is some debate among scholars about which of the two gates on the eastern wall of the city Jesus would have entered.

Sheep Gate

Jerusalem Gates

Located on the northeast corner of the Old City, which I’ve walked through myself, the Sheep Gate is a natural choice from the land bridge and a common gate that Jesus used to enter the city. It was so named as lambs destined for Temple sacrifice entered here. They did not leave alive.

For centuries, during Easter Week, Christian pilgrims begin their procession inside this gate. The route is called the Via Dolorosa, “the way of suffering (or sorrow),” and marks the Stations of the Cross that Jesus followed on his way to Mount Calvary.

Golden Gate

Others contend that the Golden Gate on the center-eastern part of the city is the one. However, it’s currently sealed up and has been for five centuries since the mid-16th century…

Bill Petro

Writer, technologist, historian. Former Silicon Valley tech exec. Author of fascinating articles on history, tech, pop culture, & travel. https://billpetro.com