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Virtually Tour the Sorrowful Mysteries Chapels

Traditionally prayed as part of the Rosary, the Sorrowful Mysteries help the faithful meditate on the events leading up to Christ’s death. Here in the Basilica, the Sorrowful Mysteries are each portrayed in a series of chapels in the Great Upper Church in glittering mosaics, alongside their Old Testament parallels. As we observe Lent and prepare our hearts for the celebration of the Resurrection, we invite you to virtually tour these chapels and learn more about the significance of the Sorrowful Mysteries.

The First Mystery: Agony in the Garden

The First Sorrowful Mystery Chapel depicts Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden alongside Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane. As Christ submitted to the will of His Father after His prayerful struggle in Gethsemane, He brought restoration for all of us and enabled us to once again commune with the Father as Adam and Eve had in the garden. This mystery demonstrates the beginning of the reversal of sin’s curse: though the garden separated humanity from God, through Christ’s perfect sacrifice, we are reconciled to God. The text on the mosaic reads “See if there is any suffering like mine.” (Lamentations 1:12).

The Second Mystery: Scourging at the Pillar

The Second Sorrowful Mystery Chapel shows the scourging of Jesus at the pillar, while the lower section of the mosaic portrays the parallel of Jeremiah being wrongfully beaten and jailed, as described in Jeremiah 38. In the gospels, Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, who ordered Him to be beaten at the encouragement of the crowd. The mosaic is inscribed with the words: “By His chastisement we were healed,” from Isaiah 53.

The Third Mystery: Crowning with Thorns

The soldiers mocked Jesus, dressing Him in a purple robe and giving Him a crown of thorns. They spat on Him, struck Him in the face, and taunted, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Similarly, the Old Testament scene depicted in this chapel shows Jehoiachin silently submitting to his captors, the Babylonians. However, unlike Jehoiachin, Jesus’ silent submission did not mean defeat, but rather led to the triumph of His kingdom. The inscription on the mosaic reads, “The breath of our life was held a prisoner.”

The Fourth Mystery: Carrying of the Cross

In the fourth Sorrowful Mystery Chapel, Christ carrying the cross is portrayed alongside Abraham and Isaac carrying wood up to Mt. Moriah, highlighting the parallels of sacrifice and steadfast trust demonstrated by the son of Abraham and the Son of God. Christ provided Himself as the lamb, offering Himself as the fulfilling sacrifice for us. These two scenes are joined by the text of Isaiah 53:6: “The Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.”

The Fifth Mystery: The Crucifixion

During the last plague before the Israelites’ flight from Egypt, their firstborn sons were spared from death by painting the blood of a lamb over their doorways (Exodus 12:1-13), which caused the angel of the Lord to pass over. In the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery Chapel mosaic, this is portrayed alongside Jesus, the Lamb of God, who saved the faithful from death by shedding His blood on the cross, with the text: “Christ the Passover Lamb is Sacrificed.”

Ultimately, the Sorrowful Mysteries demonstrate Christ’s faithful submission to His father in the face of great suffering. He was willing to suffer and die for us, that we might cast aside all sorrows and dwell with joy in the glory of the Father.


Rohling, Geraldine M., PhD, MAEd. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Guide and Tour BookWashington, D.C.: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 2018.

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