The bitter Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ – Part 12

The Earthquake.

Apparitions of the Dead in Jerusalem.
I saw the soul of Jesus, at the moment he expired, appear under the form of a bright orb,
and accompanied by angels, among whom I distinguished the angel Gabriel penetrate the
earth at the foot of the Cross. I likewise saw these angels cast a number of evil spirits into
the great abyss, and I heard Jesus order several of the souls in Limbo to re-enter the bodies
in which they once dwelt, in order that the sight might fill sinners with a salutary terror, and
that these souls might render a solemn testimony to his divinity.
The earthquake which produced the deep chasm at Calvary did much damage in
different parts of Palestine, but ifs effects were even more fatal in Jerusalem. Its inhabitants
were just beginning to be a little reassured by the return of light, when their terror was
reawakened with double force by the shocks of the earthquake, and the terrible noise and
confusion caused by the downfall of houses and walls on all sides, which panic was still
farther increased by the sudden appearance of dead persons, confronting the trembling
miscreants who were flying to hide themselves, and addressing them in the most severe and
reproachful language.
The High Priests had recommenced the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb (which had been
stopped by the unexpected darkness), and they were triumphing at the return of light, when
suddenly the ground beneath them trembled, the neighbouring buildings fell down, and the
veil of the Temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom. Excess of terror at first
rendered those on the outside speechless, but after a time they burst forth into cries and
lamentations. The confusion in the interior of the Temple was not, however, as great as
would naturally have been expected, because the strictest order and decorum were always
enforced there, particularly with regard to the regulation to be followed by those who
entered to make their sacrifice, and those who left after having offered it. The crowd was
great, but the ceremonies were so solemnly carried out by the priests, that they totally
engrossed the minds of the assistants. First came the immolation of the lamb, then the
sprinkling of its blood, accompanied by the chanting of canticles and the sounding of
trumpets. The priests were endeavouring to continue the sacrifices, when suddenly an
unexpected and most appalling pause ensued; terror and astonishment were depicted on
each countenance; all was thrown into confusion; not a sound was heard; the sacrifices
ceased; there was a general rush to the gates of the Temple; everyone endeavoured to fly as
quickly as possible. And well might they fly, well might they fear and tremble; for in the
midst of the multitude there suddenly appeared persons who had been dead and buried for
many years! These persons looked at them sternly, and reproved them most severely for the
crime they had committed that day, in bringing about the death of ‘the just man,’ and
calling down his blood upon their heads. Even in the midst of this confusion, some attempts
were, however, made by the priests to preserve order; they prevented those who were in the
inner part of the Temple from rushing forward, pushing their way through the crowds who
were in advance of them, and descending the steps which led out of the Temple: they even
continued the sacrifices in some parts, and endeavoured to calm the fears of the people.
The appearance of the Temple at this moment can only be described by comparing it to
an ant-hill on which persons have thrown stones, or which has been disturbed by a sick
being driven into its centre. The ants in those parts on which the stones have fallen, or
which the stick had disturbed, are filled with confusion and terror; they run to and fro and
do nothing; while the ants in those parts which have not been disturbed continue to labour
quietly, and even begin to repair the damaged parts.
The High Priest Caiphas and his retinue did not lose their presence of mind, and by the
outward tranquillity which their diabolical hardness of heart enabled them to preserve, they
calmed the confusion in a great degree, and then did their utmost to prevent the people from
looking upon these stupendous events as testimonies of the innocence of Jesus. The Roman
garrison belonging to the fortress of Antonia likewise made great efforts to maintain order;
consequently, the disturbance of the festival was not followed by an insurrection, although
every heart was fixed with fear and anxiety, which anxiety the Pharisees endeavoured (and
in some instances with success) to calm.
I remember a few other striking incidents: in the first place, the two columns which were
placed at the entrance of their Holy of Holies, and to which a magnificent curtain was
appended, were shaken to the very foundations; the column on the left side fell down in a
southerly, and that on the right side in a northerly direction, thus rending the veil in two
from the top to the bottom with a fearful sound, and exposing the Holy of Holies uncovered
to the public gaze. A large stone was loosened and fell from the wall at the entrance of the
sanctuary, near where the aged Simeon used to kneel, and the arch was broken. The ground
was heaved up, and many other columns were thrown down in other parts of the Temple.
An apparition of the High Priest Zacharias, who was slain between the porch and the
altar, was seen in the sanctuary. He uttered fearful menaces, spoke of the death of the
second Zacharias, and of that of St. John Baptist, as also of the violent deaths of the other
prophets.8 The two sons of the High Priest Simon, surnamed the Just (ancestors of the aged
Simeon who prophesied when Jesus was presented in the Temple), made their appearance
in the part usually occupied by the doctors of the law; they also spoke in terrific terms of the
deaths of the prophets, of the sacrifice of the old law which was now about to cease, and
they exhorted all present to be converted, and to embrace the doctrines which had been
preached by him whom they had crucified. The prophet Jeremiah likewise appeared; he
stood near the altar, and proclaimed, in a menacing tone, that the ancient sacrifice was at an
end, and that a new one had commenced. As these apparitions took place in parts where
none but priests were allowed to enter, Caiphas and a few others were alone cognisant of
them, and they endeavoured, as far as possible, either to deny their reality, or to conceal
them. These prodigies were followed by others still more extraordinary. The doors of the
sanctuary flew open of themselves, and a voice was heard to utter these words: ‘Let us leave
this place;’ and I saw all the angels of the Lord instantly leave the Temple. The thirty-two
Pharisees who went to Calvary a short time before our Lord expired were almost all
converted at the foot of the Cross. They returned to the Temple in the midst of the
confusion, and were perfectly thunderstruck at all which had taken place there. They spoke
most sternly, both to Annas and to Caiphas, and left the Temple. Annas had always been
the most bitter of the enemies of Jesus, and had headed every proceeding against him; but
the supernatural events which had taken place had completely unnerved him that he knew
not where to hide himself. Caiphas was, in realty excessively alarmed, and filled with
anxiety, but his pride was so great that he concealed his feelings as far as possible, and
endeavoured to reassure Annas. He succeeded for a time; but the sudden appearance of a
person who had been dead many years marred the effect of his words, and Annas became
again a prey to the most fearful terror and remorse.
Whilst these things were going on in the Temple, the confusion and panic were not less
in Jerusalem. Dead persons were walking about, and many walls and buildings had been
shaken by the earthquake, and parts of them fallen down. The superstition of Pilate
rendered him even more accessible to fear; he was perfectly paralysed and speechless with
terror; his palace was shaken to the very foundation, and the earth quaked beneath his feet.
8 The Zacharias here referred to was the father of John the Baptist, who was tortured and afterwards put to
death by Herod, because he would not betray John into the hands of the tyrant. He was buried by his friends
within the precincts of the Temple.
He ran wildly from room to room, and the dead constantly stood before him, reproaching
him with the unjust sentence he had passed upon Jesus. He thought that they were the gods
of the Galilean, and took refuge in an inner room, where he offered incense, and made vows
to his idols to invoke their assistance in his distress. Herod was usually alarmed; but he shut
himself up in his palace, out of the sight of everyone.
More than a hundred persons who had died at different epochs re-entered the bodies they
had occupied when on earth, made their appearance in different parts of Jerusalem, and
filled the inhabitants with inexpressible consternation. Those souls which had been released
by Jesus from Limbo uncovered their faces and wandered to and fro in the streets, and
although their bodies were the same as those which they had animated when on earth, yet
these bodies did not appear to touch the ground as they walked. They entered the houses of
their descendants, proclaimed the innocence of Jesus, and reproved those who had taken
part in his death most severely. I saw them passing through the principal streets; they were
generally in couples, and appeared to me to glide through the airs without moving their feet.
The countenances of some were pale; others of a yellow tint; their beards were long, and
their voices sounded strange and sepulchral. Their grave-clothes were such as it was
customary to use at the period of their decease. When they reached the place where
sentence of death was proclaimed on Jesus before the procession started for Calvary, they
paused for a moment, and exclaimed in a loud voice: ‘Glory be to Jesus for ever and ever,
and destruction to his enemies!’ Towards four o’clock all the dead returned to their graves.
The sacrifices in the Temple had been so interrupted, and the confusion caused by the
different prodigies was so great, that very few persons ate the Paschal lamb on that evening.

The Request of Joseph of Arimathea

to be allowed to have the Body of Jesus.
Scarcely had the commotion which the town had been thrown into begun to subside in a
degree, when the Jews belonging to the Council sent to Pilate to request that the legs of the
criminals might be broken, in order to put an end to their lives before the Sabbath-day
dawned. Pilate immediately dispatched executioners to Calvary to carry out their wishes.
Joseph of Arimathea then demanded an audience; he had heard of the death of Jesus,
and he and Nicodemus had determined to bury him in a new sepulchre which he had made
at the end of his garden, not far from Calvary. Pilate was still filled with anxiety and
solicitude, and was much astonished at seeing a person holding a high position like Joseph
so anxious for leave to give honourable burial to a criminal whom he had sentenced to be
ignominiously crucified. He sent for the centurion Abenadar, who returned to Jerusalem
after he had conferred with the disciples who were hidden in the caverns, and asked him
whether the King of the Jews was really dead. Abenadar gave Pilate a full account of the
death of our Lord, of his last words, and of the loud cry he uttered immediately before
death, and of the earthquake which had rent the great chasm in the rock. The only thing at
which Pilate expressed surprise was that the death of Jesus should have taken place so
quickly, as those who were crucified usually lived much longer; but although he said so
little, every word uttered by Joseph increased his dismay and remorse. He instantly gave
Joseph an order, by which he was authorised to take down the body of the King of the Jews
from the Cross, and to perform the rites of sepulture at once. Pilate appeared to endeavour,
by his readiness in granting this request, to wish to make up, in a degree, for his previous
cruel and unjust conduct, and he was likewise very glad to do what he was certain would
annoy the priests extremely, as he knew their wish was to have Jesus buried ignominiously
between the two thieves. He dispatched a messenger to Calvary to see his orders executed. I
believe the messenger was Abenadar, for I saw him assisting in taking Jesus down from the
When Joseph of Arimathea left Pilate’s palace, he instantly rejoined Nicodemus, who
was waiting for him at the house of a pious woman, which stood opposite to a large street,
and was not far from that alley where Jesus was so shamefully ill-treated when he first
commenced carrying his Cross. The woman was a vendor of aromatic herbs, and
Nicodemus had purchased many perfumes which were necessary for embalming the body of
Jesus from her. She procured the more precious kinds from other places, and Joseph went
away to procure a fine winding-sheet. His servants then fetched ladders, hammers, pegs, jars
of water, and sponges, from a neighbouring shed, and placed them in a hand-barrow similar
to that on which the disciples of John the Baptist put his body when they carried it off from
the castle of Macherus.

The Opening of the Side of Jesus.

Death of the two thieves.
Whilst these events were taking place in Jerusalem, silence reigned around Calvary. The
crowd which had been for a time so noisy and tumultuous, was dispersed; all were panicstricken;
in some that panic had produced sincere repentance, but on others it had had no
beneficial effects. Mary, John, Magdalen, Mary of Cleophas, and Salome had remained,
either standing or sitting before the Cross, closely veiled and weeping silently. A few soldiers
were leaning over the terrace which enclosed the platform; Cassius rode up and down; the
sky was lowering, and all nature wore a garb of mourning. Six archers soon after made their
appearance, bringing with them ladders, spades, ropes, and large iron staves for the purpose
of breaking the legs of the criminals, in order to hasten their deaths. When they approached
our Lord’s Cross, his friends retired a few paces back, and the Blessed Virgin was seized
with fear lest they should indulge their hatred of Jesus by insulting even his dead body. Her
fears were not quite unfounded, for when they first placed their ladders against the Cross
they declared that he was only pretending to be dead; in a few moments, however, seeing
that he was cold and stiff, they left him, and removed their ladders to the crosses on which
the two thieves were still hanging alive. They took up their iron staves and broke the arms of
the thieves above and below the elbow; while another archer at the same moment broke
their legs, both above and below the knee. Gesmas uttered frightful cries, therefore the
executioner finished him off by three heavy blows of a cudgel on his chest. Dismas gave a
deep groan, and expired: he was the first among mortals who had the happiness of rejoining
his Redeemer. The cords were then loosened, the two bodies fell to the ground, and the
executioners dragged them to a deep morass, which was between Calvary and the walls of
the town, and buried them there.
The archers still appeared doubtful whether Jesus was really dead, and the brutality they
had shown in breaking the legs of the thieves made the holy women tremble as to what
outrage they might next perpetrate on the body of our Lord. But Cassius, the subaltern
officer, a young man of about five-and-twenty, whose weak squinting eyes and nervous
manner had often excited the derision of his companions, was suddenly illuminated by
grace, and being quite overcome at the sight of the cruel conduct of the soldiers, and the
deep sorrow of the holy women, determined to relieve their anxiety by proving beyond
dispute that Jesus was really dead. The kindness of his heart prompted him, but
unconsciously to himself he fulfilled a prophecy. He seized his lance and rode quickly up to
the mound on which the Cross was planted, stopped just between the cross of the good thief
and that of our Lord, and taking his lance in both hands, thrust it so completely into the
right side of Jesus that the point went through the heart, and appeared on the left side.
When Cassius drew his lance out of the wound a quantity of blood and water rushed from
it, and flowed over his face and body. This species of washing produced effects somewhat
similar to the vivifying waters of Baptism: grace and salvation at once entered his soul. He
leaped from his horse, threw himself upon his knees, struck his breast, and confessed loudly
before all his firm belief in the divinity of Jesus.
The Blessed Virgin and her companions were still standing near, with their eyes fixed
upon the Cross, but when Cassius thrust his lance into the side of Jesus they were much
startled, and rushed with one accord up to it. Mary looked as if the lance had transfixed her
heart instead of that of her Divine Son, and could scarcely support herself. Cassius
meantime remained kneeling and thanking God, not only for the grace he had received but
likewise for the cure of the complaint in his eyes, which had caused the weakness and the
squint. This cure had been effected at the same moment that the darkness with which his
soul was previously filled was removed. Every heart was overcome at the sight of the blood
of our Lord, which ran into a hollow in the rock at the foot of the Cross. Mary, John, the
holy women, and Cassius, gathered up the blood and water in flasks, and wiped up the
remainder with pieces of linen.9
Cassius, whose sight was perfectly restored at the same moment that the eyes of his soul
were opened, was deeply moved, and continued his humble prayer of thanksgiving. The
soldiers were truck with astonishment at the miracle which had taken place, and cast
themselves on their knees by his side, at the same time striking their breasts and confessing
Jesus. The water and blood continued to flow from the large wound in the side of our Lord;
it ran into the hollow in the rock, and the holy women put it in vases, while Mary and
9 Sister Emmerich added: ‘Cassius was baptised by the name of Longinus; and was ordained deacon, and
preached the faith. He always kept some of the blood of Christ,—it dried up, but was found in his coffin in
Italy. He was buried in a town at no great distance from the locality where St. Clare passed her life. There is a
lake with an island upon it near this town, and the body of Longinus must have been taken there.’ Sister
Emmerich appears to designate Mantua by this description, and there is a tradition preserved in that town to
the effect. I do not know which St. Clare lived in the neighbourhood.
Magdalen mingled their tears. The archers, who had received a message from Pilate,
ordering them not to touch the body of Jesus, did not return at all.
All these events took place near the Cross, at a little before four o’clock, during the time
that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were gathering together the articles necessary for
the burial of Jesus. But the servants of Joseph having been sent to clean out the tomb,
informed the friends of our Lord that their master intended to take the body of Jesus and
place it in his new sepulchre. John immediately returned to the town with the holy women;
in the first place, that Mary might recruit her strength a little, and in the second, to purchase
a few things which would be required for the burial. The Blessed Virgin had a small lodging
among the buildings near the Cenaculum. They did not re-enter the town through the gate
which was the nearest to Calvary, because it was closed, and guarded by soldiers placed
there by the Pharisees; but they went through that gate which leads to Bethlehem.

A Description of some Parts of ancient Jerusalem.

This chapter will contain some descriptions of places given by Sister Emmerich on
various occasions. They will be followed by a description of the tomb and garden of Joseph
of Arimathea, that so we may have no need to interrupt the account of the burial of our
The first gate which stood on the eastern side of Jerusalem, to the south of the south-east
angle of the Temple, was the one leading to the suburb of Ophel. The gate of the sheep was
to the north of the north-east angle of the Temple. Between these two gates there was a
third, leading to some streets situated to the east of the Temple, and inhabited for the most
part by stonemasons and other workmen. The houses in these streets were supported by the
foundations of the Temple; and almost all belonged to Nicodemus, who had caused them to
be built, and who employed nearly all the workmen living there. Nicodemus had not long
before built a beautiful gate as an entrance to these streets, called the Gate of Moriah. It was
but just finished, and through it Jesus had entered the town on Palm Sunday. Thus he
entered by the new gate of Nicodemus, through which no one had yet passed, and was
buried in the new monument of Joseph of Arimathea, in which no one had yet been laid.
This gate was afterwards walled up, and there was a tradition that the Christians were once
again to enter the town through it. Even in the present day, a walled-up gate, called by the
Turks the Golden Gate, stands on this spot.
The road leading to the west from the gate of the sheep passed almost exactly between
the north-western side of Mount Sion and Calvary. From this gate to Golgotha the distance
was about two miles and a quarter; and from Pilate’s palace to Golgotha about two miles.
The fortress Antonia was situated to the north-west of the mountain of the Temple, on a
detached rock. A person going towards the west, on leaving Pilate’s palace, would have had
this fortress to his left. On one of its walls there was a platform commanding the forum, and
from which Pilate was accustomed to make proclamations to the people: he did this, for
instance, when he promulgated new laws. When our Divine Lord was carrying his Cross, in
the interior of the town, Mount Calvary was frequently on his right hand. This road, which
partly ran in a south-westerly direction, led to a gate made in an inner wall of the town,
towards Sion. Beyond this wall, to the left, there was a sort of suburb, containing more
gardens than houses; and towards the outer wall of the city stood some magnificent
sepulchres with stone entrances. On this side was a house belonging to Lazarus, with
beautiful gardens, extending towards that part where the outer western wall of Jerusalem
turned to the south. I believe that a little private door, made in the city wall, and through
which Jesus and his disciples often passed by permission of Lazarus, led to these gardens.
The gate standing at the north-western angle of the town led to Bethsur, which was situated
more towards the north than Emmaus and Joppa. The western part of Jerusalem was lower
than any other: the land on which it was built first sloped in the direction of the surrounding
wall, and then rose again when close to it; and on this declivity there stood gardens and
vineyards, behind which wound a wide road, with paths leading to the walls and towers. On
the other side, without the wall, the land descended towards the valley, so that the walls
surrounding the lower part of the town looked as if built on a raised terrace. There are
gardens and vineyards even in the present day on the outer hill. When Jesus arrived at the
end of the Way of the Cross, he had on his left hand that part of the town where there were
so many gardens; and it was from thence that Simon of Cyrene was coming when he met
the procession. The gate by which Jesus left the town was not entirely facing the west, but
rather the south-west. The city wall on the left-hand side, after passing through the gate, ran
somewhat in a southerly direction, then turned towards the west, and then again to the
south, round Mount Sion. On this side there stood a large tower, like a fortress. The gate by
which Jesus left the town was at no great distance from another gate more towards the
south, leading down to the valley, and where a road, turning to the left in the direction of
Bethlehem, commenced. The road turned to the north towards Mount Calvary shortly after
that gate by which Jesus left Jerusalem when bearing his Cross. Mount Calvary was very
steep on its eastern side, facing the town, and a gradual descent on the western; and on this
side, from which the road to Emmaus was to be seen, there was a field, in which I saw Luke
gather several plants when he and Cleophas were going to Emmaus, and met Jesus on the
way. Near the walls, to the east and south of Calvary, there were also gardens, sepulchres,
and vineyards. The Cross was buried on the north-east side, at the foot of Mount Calvary.
The garden of Joseph of Arimathea was situated near the gate of Bethlehem, at about a
seven minutes’ walk from Calvary: it was a very fine garden, with tall trees, banks, and
thickets in it, which gave much shade, and was situated on a rising ground extending to the
walls of the city.10 A person coming from the northern side of the valley, and entering the
garden, had on his left hand a slight ascent extending as far as the city wall; and on his right,
10 We must here remark that, in the four years during which Sister Emmerich had her visions, she described
everything that had happened to the holy places from the earliest times down to our own. More than once she
beheld them profaned and laid waste, but always venerated, either publicly or privately. She saw many stones
and pieces of rock, which had been silent witnesses of the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, placed by St.
Helena in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre upon occasion of the foundation of that sacred building. When
Sister Emmerich visited it in spirit she was accustomed to venerate the spots where the Cross had stood and
the Holy Sepulchre been situated. It must be observed, however, that she used sometimes to see a greater
distance between the actual position of the Tomb and the spot where the Cross stood than there is between the
chapels which bear their names in the church at Jerusalem.
at the end of the garden, a detached rock, where the cave of the sepulchre was situated. The
grotto in which it was made looked to the east; and on the south-western and north-western
sides of the same rock were two other smaller sepulchres, which were also new, and with
depressed fronts. A pathway, beginning on the western side of this rock, ran all round it.
The ground in front of the sepulchre was higher than that of the entrance, and a person
wishing to enter the cavern had to descend several steps. The cave was sufficiently large for
four men to be able to stand close up to the wall on either side without impeding the
movements of the bearers of the body. Opposite the door was a cavity in the rock, in which
the tomb was made; it was about two feet above the level of the ground, and fastened to the
rock by one side only, like an altar: two persons could stand, one at the head and one at the
foot; and there was a place also for a third in front, even if the door of the cavity was closed.
This door was made of some metal, perhaps of brass, and had two folding doors. These
doors could be closed by a stone being rolled against them; and the stone used for this
purpose was kept outside the cavern. Immediately after our Lord was placed in the
sepulchre it was rolled in front of the door. It was very large, and could not be removed
without the united effort of several men. Opposite the entrance of the cavern there stood a
stone bench, and by mounting on this a person could climb on to the rock, which was
covered with grass, and from whence the city walls, the highest parts of Mount Sion, and
some towers could be seen, as well as the gate of Bethlehem and the fountain of Gihon. The
rock inside was of a white colour, intersected with red and blue veins.

The Descent from the Cross.

At the time when everyone had left the neighbourhood of the Cross, and a few guards
alone stood around it, I saw five persons, who I think were disciples, and who had come by
the valley from Bethania, draw nigh to Calvary, gaze for a few moments upon the Cross,
and then steal away. Three times I met in the vicinity two men who were making
examinations and anxiously consulting together. These men were Joseph of Arimathea and
Nicodemus. The first time was during the Crucifixion (perhaps when they caused the
clothes of Jesus to be brought back from the soldiers), and they were then at no great
distance from Calvary. The second was when, after standing to look whether the crowd was
dispersing, they went to the town to make some preparations. The third was on their return
from the tomb to the Cross, when they were looking around in every direction, as if waiting
for a favourable moment, and then concerted together as to the manner in which they
should take the body of our Lord down from the Cross, after which they returned to the
Their next care was to make arrangements for carrying with them the necessary articles
for embalming the body, and their servants took some tools with which to detach it from the
Cross, as well as two ladders which they found in a barn close to Nicodemus’s house. Each
of these ladders consisted of a single pole, crossed at regular intervals by pieces of wood,
which formed the steps. There were hooks which could be fastened on any part of the pole,
and by means of which the ladder could be steadied, or on which, perhaps, anything
required for the work could also be hung.
The woman from whom they had bought their spices had packed the whole neatly
together. Nicodemus had bought a hundred pounds’ weight of roots, which quantity is
equal to about thirty-seven pounds of our measure, as has been explained to me. They
carried these spices in little barrels make of bark, which were hung round their necks, and
rested on their breasts. One of these barrels contained some sort of powder. They had also
some bundles of herbs in bags made of parchment or leather, and Joseph carried a box of
ointment; but I do not know what this box was made of. The servants were to carry vases,
leathern bottles, sponges, and tools, on a species of litter, and they likewise took fire with
them in a closed lantern. They left the town before their master, and by a different gate
(perhaps that of Bethania), and then turned their steps towards Mount Calvary. As they
walked through the town they passed by the house where the Blessed Virgin; St. John, and
the holy women had gone to seek different things required for embalming the body of Jesus,
and John and the holy women followed the servants at a certain distance. The women were
about five in number, and some of them carried large bundles of linen under their mantles.
It was the custom for women, when they went out in the evening, or if intending to perform
some work of piety secretly, to wrap their persons carefully in a long sheet at least a yard
wide. They began by one arm, and then wound the linen so closely round their body that
they could not walk without difficulty. I have seen them wrapped up in this manner, and the
sheet not only extended to both arms, but likewise veiled the head. On the present occasion,
the appearance of this dress was most striking in my eyes, for it was a real mourning
garment. Joseph and Nicodemus were also in mourning attire, and wore black sleeves and
wide sashes. Their cloaks, which they had drawn over their heads, were both wide and long,
of a common grey colour, and served to conceal everything that they were carrying. They
turned their steps in the direction of the gate leading to Mount Calvary. The streets were
deserted and quiet, for terror kept everyone at home. The greatest number were beginning to
repent, and but few were keeping the festival. When Joseph and Nicodemus reached the
gate they found it closed, and the road, streets, and every corner lined with soldiers. These
were the soldiers whom the Pharisees had asked for at about two o’clock, and whom they
had kept under arms and on guard, as they still feared a tumult among the people. Joseph
showed an order, signed by Pilate, to let them pass freely, and the soldiers were most willing
that they should do so, but explained to him that they had endeavoured several times to
open the gate, without being able to move it; that apparently the gate had received a shock,
and been strained in some part; and that on this account the archers sent to break the legs of
the thieves had been obliged to return to the city by another gate. But when Joseph and
Nicodemus seized hold of the bolt, the gate opened as if of itself, to the great astonishment
of all the bystanders.
It was still dark and the sky cloudy when they reached Mount Calvary, where they found
the servants who had been sent on already arrived, and the holy women sitting weeping in
front of the Cross. Cassius and several soldiers who were converted remained at a certain
distance, and their demeanour was respectful and reserved. Joseph and Nicodemus
described to the Blessed Virgin and John all they had done to save Jesus from an
ignominious death, and learned from them how they had succeeded in preventing the bones
of our Lord from being broken, and how the prophecy had been fulfilled. They spoke also of
the wound which Cassius had made with his lance. No sooner was the centurion Abenadar
arrived than they began, with the deepest recollection of spirit, their mournful and sacred
labour of taking down from the Cross and embalming the adorable body of our Lord.
The Blessed Virgin and Magdalen were seated at the foot of the Cross; while, on the
right-hand side, between the cross of Dismas and that of Jesus, the other women were
engaged in preparing the linen, spices, water, sponges, and vases. Cassius also came
forward, and related to Abenadar the miraculous cure of his eyes. All were deeply affected,
and their hearts overflowing with sorrow and love; but, at the same time, they preserved a
solemn silence, and their every movement was full of gravity and reverence. Nothing broke
the stillness save an occasional smothered word of lamentation, or a stifled groan, which
escaped from one or other of these holy personages, in spite of their earnest eagerness and
deep attention to their pious labour. Magdalen gave way unrestrainedly to her sorrow, and
neither the presence of so many different persons, nor any other consideration, appeared to
distract her from it.
Nicodemus and Joseph placed the ladders behind the Cross, and mounted them, holding
in their hands a large sheet, to which three long straps were fastened. They tied the body of
Jesus, below the arms and knees, to the tree of the Cross, and secured the arms by pieces of
linen placed underneath the hands. Then they drew out the nails, by pushing them from
behind with strong pins pressed upon the points. The sacred hands of Jesus were thus not
much shaken, and the nails fell easily out of the wounds; for the latter had been made wider
by the weight of the body, which, being now supported by the cloths, no longer hung on the
nails. The lower part of the body, which since our Lord’s death had sunk down on the
knees, now rested in a natural position, supported by a sheet fastened above to the arms of
the Cross. Whilst Joseph was taking out the nail from the left hand, and then allowing the
left arm, supported by its cloth, to fall gently down upon the body, Nicodemus was
fastening the right arm of Jesus to that of the Cross, as also the sacred crowned head, which
had sunk on the right shoulder. Then he took out the right nail, and having surrounded the
arm with its supporting sheet, let it fall gently on to the body. At the same time, the
centurion Abenadar, with great difficulty, drew out the large nail which transfixed the feet.
Cassius devoutly received the nails, and laid them at the feet of the Blessed Virgin.
Then Joseph and Nicodemus, having placed ladders against the front of the Cross, in a
very upright position, and close to the body, untied the upper strap, and fastened it to one of
the hooks on the ladder; they did the same with the two other straps, and passing them all
on from hook to hook, caused the sacred body to descend gently towards the centurion,
who having mounted upon a stool received it in his arms, holding it below the knees; while
Joseph and Nicodemus, supporting the upper part of the body, came gently down the
ladder, stopping at every step, and taking every imaginable precaution, as would be done by
men bearing the body of some beloved friend who had been grievously wounded. Thus did
the bruised body of our Divine Saviour reach the ground.
It was a most touching sight. They all took the same precautions, the same care, as if they
had feared to cause Jesus some suffering. They seemed to have concentrated on the sacred
body all the love and veneration which they had felt for their Saviour during his life. The
eyes of each were fixed upon the adorable body, and followed all its movements; and they
were continually uplifting their hands towards Heaven, shedding tears, and expressing in
every possible way the excess of their grief and anguish. Yet they all remained perfectly
calm, and even those who were so busily occupied about the sacred body broke silence but
seldom, and, when obliged to make some necessary remark, did so in a low voice. During
the time that the nails were being forcible removed by blows of the hammer, the Blessed
Virgin, Magdalen; and all those who had been present at the Crucifixion, felt each blow
transfix their hearts. The sound recalled to their minds all the sufferings of Jesus, and they
could not control their trembling fear, lest they should again hear his piercing cry of
suffering; although, at the same time they grieved at the silence of his blessed lips, which
proved, alas too surely, that he was really dead. When the body was taken down it was
wrapped in linen from the knees to the waist, and then placed in the arms of the Blessed
Virgin, who, overwhelmed with sorrow and love, stretched them forth to receive their
precious burden.