The bitter Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ – Part 6

Description of Pilate’s Palace and the adjacent Buildings.

The palace of the Roman governor, Pilate, was built on the north-west side of the
mountain on which the Temple stood, and to reach it persons were obliged to ascend a
flight of marble steps. It overlooked a large square surrounded by a colonnade, under which
the merchants sat to sell their various commodities. A parapet, and an entrance at the north,
south, east, and west sides alone broke the uniformity of this part of the market-place, which
was called the forum, and built on higher ground than the adjacent streets, which sloped
down from it. The palace of Pilate was not quite close, but separated by a large court, the
entrance to which at the eastern side was through a high arch facing a street leading to the
door called the ‘Probatica,’ on the road to the Mount of Olives. The southern entrance was
through another arch, which leads to Sion, in the neighbourhood of the fortress of Acre.
From the top of the marble steps of Pilate’s palace, a person could see across the court as far
as the forum, at the entrance of which a few columns and stone seats were placed. It was at
these seats that the Jewish priests stopped, in order not to defile themselves by entering the
tribunal of Pilate, a line traced on the pavement of the court indicating the precise boundary
beyond which they could not pass without incurring defilement. There was a large parapet
near the western entrance, supported by the sides of Pilate’s Praetorium, which formed a
species of porch between it and the square. That part of Pilate’s palace which he made use of
when acting in the capacity of judge, was called the Praetorium. A number of columns
surrounded the parapet of which we have just spoken, and in the centre was an uncovered
portion, containing an underground part, where the two thieves condemned to be crucified
with our Lord were confined, and this part was filled with Roman soldiers. The pillar upon
which our Lord was scourged was placed on the forum itself, not far from this parapet and
the colonnade. There were many other columns in this place; those nearest to the palace
were made use of for the infliction of various corporal punishments, and the others served as
posts to which were fastened the beasts brought for sale. Upon the forum itself, opposite this
building, was a platform filled with seats made of stone; and from this platform, which was
called Gabbatha, Pilate was accustomed to pronounce sentence on great criminals. The
marble staircase ascended by persons going to the governor’s palace led likewise to an
uncovered terrace, and it was from this terrace that Pilate gave audience to the priests and
Pharisees, when they brought forward their accusations against Jesus. They all stood before
him in the forum, and refused to advance further than the stone seats before mentioned. A
person speaking in a loud tone of voice from the terrace could be easily heard by those in the
Behind Pilate’s palace there were many other terraces, and likewise gardens, and a
country house. The gardens were between the palace of the governor and the dwelling of his
wife, Claudia Procles. A large moat separated these buildings from the mountain on which
the Temple stood, and on this side might be seen the houses inhabited by those who served
in the Temple. The palace of Herod the elder was placed on the eastern side of Pilate’s
palace; and it was in its inner court that numbers of the Innocents were massacred. At
present the appearance of these two buildings is a little altered, as their entrances are
changed. Four of the principal streets commenced at this part of the town, and ran in a
southerly direction, three leading to the forum and Pilate’s palace, and the fourth to the gate
through which persons passed on their way to Bethsur. The beautiful house which belonged
to Lazarus, and likewise that of Martha, were in a prominent part of this street.
One of these streets was very near to the Temple, and began at the gate which was called
Probatica. The pool of Probatica was close to this gate on the right hand side, and in this
pool the sheep were washed for the first time, before being taken to the Temple; while the
second and more solemn washing took place in the pool of Bethsaida, which is near the
south entrance to the Temple. The second of the above-mentioned streets contained a house
belonging to St. Anna, the mother of the Blessed Virgin, which she usually inhabited when
she came up to Jerusalem with her family to offer sacrifice in the Temple. I believe it was in
this house that the espousals of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin were celebrated.
The forum, as I have already explained, was built on higher ground than the
neighbouring streets, and the aqueducts which ran through these streets flowed into the
Probatica pool. On Mount Sion, directly opposite to the old castle of King David, stood a
building very similar to the forum, while to the south-east might be seen the Cenacle, and a
little towards the north the tribunals of Annas and Caiphas. King David’s castle was a
deserted fortress, filled with courts, empty rooms, and stables, generally let to travellers. It
had long been in this state of ruin, certainly before the time of our Lord’s nativity. I saw the
Magi with their numerous retinue enter it before going into Jerusalem.
When in meditation I behold the ruins of old castles and temples, see their neglected and
forlorn state, and reflect on the uses to which they are now put, so different from the
intentions of those who raised them, my mind always reverts to the events of our own days,
when so many of the beautiful edifices erected by our pious and zealous ancestors are either
destroyed, defaced, or used for worldly, if not wicked purposes. The little church of our
convent, in which our Lord deigned to dwell, notwithstanding our unworthiness, and which
was to me a paradise upon earth, is now without either roof or windows, and all the
monuments are effaced or carried away. Our beloved convent, too, what will be done with
it in a short time? That convent, where I was more happy in my little cell with my broken
chair, than a king could be on his throne, for from its window I beheld that part of the
church which contained the Blessed Sacrament. In a few years, perhaps, no one will know
that it ever existed,—no one will know that it once contained hundreds of souls consecrated
to God, who spent their days in imploring his mercy upon sinners. But God will know all,
he never forgets,—the past and the future are equally present to him. He it is who reveals to
me events which took place so long ago, and on the day of judgment, when all must be
accounted for, and every debt paid, even to the farthing, he will remember both the good
and the evil deeds performed in places long since forgotten. With God there is no exception
of persons or places, his eyes see all, even the Vineyard of Naboth. It is a tradition among us
that our convent was originally founded by two poor nuns, whose worldly possessions
consisted in a jar of oil and a sack of beans. On the last day God will reward them for the
manner in which they put out this small talent to interest, and for the large harvest which
they reaped and presented to him. It is often said that poor souls remain in purgatory in
punishment for what appears to us so small a crime as not having made restitution of a few
coppers of which they had unlawful possession. May God therefore have mercy upon those
who have seized the property of the poor, or of the Church.

Jesus before Pilate.

It was about eight in the morning, according to our method of counting time, when the
procession reached the palace of Pilate. Annas, Caiphas, and the chiefs of the Sanhedrin
stopped at a part between the forum and the entrance to the Praetorium, where some stone
seats were placed for them. The brutal guards dragged Jesus to the foot of the flight of stairs
which led to the judgment-seat of Pilate. Pilate was reposing in a comfortable chair, on a
terrace which overlooked the forum, and a small three-legged table stood by his side, on
which was placed the insignia of his office, and a few other things. He was surrounded by
officers and soldiers dressed with the magnificence usual in the Roman army. The Jews and
the priests did not enter the Praetorium, for fear of defiling themselves, but remained
When Pilate saw the tumultuous procession enter, and perceived how shamefully the
cruel Jews had treated their prisoner, he arose, and addressed them in a tone as
contemptuous as could have been assumed by a victorious general towards the vanquished
chief of some insignificant village: ‘What are you come about so early? Why have you illtreated
this prisoner so shamefully? Is it not possible to refrain from thus tearing to pieces
and beginning to execute your criminals even before they are judged?’ They made no
answer, but shouted out to the guards, ‘Bring him on—bring him to be judged!’ and then,
turning to Pilate, they said, ‘Listen to our accusations against this malefactor; for we cannot
enter the tribunal lest we defile ourselves.’ Scarcely had they finished these words; when a
voice was heard to issue from the midst of the dense multitude; it proceeded from a
venerable-looking old man, of imposing stature, who exclaimed, ‘You are right in not
entering the Praetorium, for it has been sanctified by the blood of Innocents; there is but one
Person who has a right to enter, and who alone can enter, because he alone is pure as the
Innocents who were massacred there.’ The person who uttered these words in a loud voice,
and then disappeared among the crowd, was a rich man of the name of Zadoc, first-cousin
to Obed, the husband of Veronica; two of his children were among the Innocents whom
Herod had caused to be butchered at the birth of our Saviour. Since that dreadful moment
he had given up the world, and, together with his wife, followed the rules of the Essenians.
He had once seen our Saviour at the house of Lazarus, and there heard him discourse, and
the sight of the barbarous manner in which he was dragged before Pilate recalled to his
mind all he himself had suffered when his babes were so cruelly murdered before his eyes,
and he determined to give this public testimony of his belief in the innocence of Jesus. The
persecutors of our Lord were far too provoked at the haughty manner which Pilate assumed
towards them, and at the humble position they were obliged to occupy, to take any notice of
the words of a stranger.
The brutal guards dragged our Lord up the marble staircase, and led him to the end of the
terrace, from whence Pilate was conferring with the Jewish priests. The Roman governor
had often heard of Jesus, although he had never seen him, and now he was perfectly
astonished at the calm dignity of department of a man brought before him in so pitiable a
condition. The inhuman behaviour of the priests and ancients both exasperated him and
increased his contempt for them, and he informed them pretty quickly that the had not the
slightest intention of condemning Jesus without satisfactory proofs of the truth of their
accusation. ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ said he, addressing the priests
in the most scornful tone possible. ‘If he were not a malefactor we would not have delivered him up
to thee,’ replied the priests sullenly. ‘Take him,’ said Pilate, ‘and judge you him according to your
law.’ ‘Thou knowest well,’ replied they, ‘that it is not lawful for us to condemn any man to death.’
The enemies of Jesus were furious—they wished to have the trial finished off, and their
victim executed as quickly as possible, that they might be ready at the festival-day to
sacrifice the Paschal lamb, not knowing, miserable wretches as they were, that he whom
they had dragged before the tribunal of an idolatrous judge (into whose house they would
not enter, for fear of defiling themselves before partaking of the figurative victim), that he,
and he alone, was the true Paschal Lamb, of which the other was only the shadow.
Pilate, however, at last ordered them to produce their accusations. These accusations
were three in number, and they brought forward ten witnesses to attest the truth of each.
Their great aim was to make Pilate believe that Jesus was the leader of a conspiracy against
the emperor, in order that he might condemn him to death as a rebel. They themselves were
powerless in such matters, being allowed to judge none but religious offences. Their first
endeavour was to convict him of seducing the people, exciting them to rebellion, and of
being an enemy to public peace and tranquillity. To prove these charges they brought
forward some false witnesses, and declared likewise that he violated the Sabbath, and even
profaned it by curing the sick upon that day. At this accusation Pilate interrupted them, and
said in a jeering tone, ‘It is very evident you were none of you ill yourselves—had you been
so you would not have complained of being cured on the Sabbath-day.’ ‘He seduces the
people, and inculcates the most disgusting doctrines. He even says, that no person can attain
eternal life unless they eat his flesh and drink his blood.’ Pilate was quite provoked at the
intense hatred which their words and countenances expressed and, turning from them with
a look of scorn, exclaimed, ‘You most certainly must wish to follow his doctrines and to
attain eternal life, for you are thirsting for both his body and blood.’
The Jews then brought forward the second accusation against Jesus, which was that he
forbad the people to pay tribute to the emperor. These words roused the indignation of
Pilate, as it was his place to see that all the taxes were properly paid, and he exclaimed in an
angry tone, ‘That is a lie! I must know more about it than you.’ This obliged the enemies of
our Lord to proceed to the third accusation, which they did in words such as these:
‘Although this man is of obscure birth, he is the chief of a large party. When at their head,
he denounces curses upon Jerusalem, and relates parables of double meaning concerning a
king who is preparing a wedding feast for his son. The multitude whom he had gathered
together on a mountain endeavoured once to make him their king; but it was sooner than he
intended: his plans were not matured; therefore he fled and hid himself. Latterly he has
come forward much more: it was but the other day that he entered Jerusalem at the head of
a tumultuous assembly, who by his orders made the people rend the air with acclamations
of “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed be the empire of our Father David, which is now
beginning.” He obliges his partisans to pay him regal honours, and tells them that he is the
Christ, the Anointed of the Lord, the Messiah, the king promised to the Jews, and he wishes
to be addressed by these fine titles.’ Then witnesses gave testimony concerning these things.
The last accusation—that of Jesus causing himself to be called king—made some impression
upon Pilate; he became a little thoughtful, left the terrace and, casting a scrutinising glance
on Jesus, went into the adjoining apartment, and ordered the guards to bring him alone into
his presence. Pilate was not only superstitious, but likewise extremely weak-minded and
susceptible. He had often, during the course of his pagan education, heard mention made of
sons of his gods who had dwelt for a time upon earth; he was likewise fully aware that the
Jewish prophets had long foretold that one should appear in the midst of them who should
be the Anointed of the Lord, their Saviour, and Deliverer from slavery; and that many
among the people believed this firmly. He remembered likewise that kings from the east had
come to Herod, the predecessor of the present monarch of that name, to pay homage to a
newly-born king of the Jews, and that Herod had on this account given orders for the
massacre of the Innocents. He had often heard of the traditions concerning the Messiah and
the king of the Jews, and even examined them with some curiosity; although of course,
being a pagan, without the slightest belief. Had he believed at all, he would probably have
agreed with the Herodians, and with those Jews who expected a powerful and victorious
king. With such impressions, the idea of the Jews accusing the poor miserable individual
whom they had brought into his presence of setting himself up as the promised king and
Messiah, of course appeared to him absurd; but as the enemies of Jesus brought forward
these charges in proof of treason against the emperor, he thought it proper to interrogate
him privately concerning them.
‘Art thou the king of the Jews,’ said Pilate, looking at our Lord, and unable to repress his
astonishment at the divine expression of his countenance.
Jesus made answer, ‘Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or have others told it thee of me?’
Pilate was offended that Jesus should think it possible for him to believe such a thing, and
answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Thy own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee up to me
as deserving of death: what hast thou done?’
Jesus answered majestically, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this
world, my servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my
kingdom is not from hence.’
Pilate was somewhat moved by these solemn words, and said to him in a more serious
tone, ‘Art thou a king, then?’
Jesus answered, ‘Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this I came into the
world, that I should give testimony to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.’
Pilate looked at him, and rising from his seat said, ‘The truth! What is truth?’
They then exchanged a few more words, which I do not now remember, and Pilate
returned to the terrace. The answers and deportment of Jesus were far beyond his
comprehension; but he saw plainly that his assumption of royalty would not clash with that
of the emperor, for that it was to no worldly kingdom that he laid claim; whereas the
emperor cared for nothing beyond this world. He therefore again addressed the chief priests
from the terrace, and said, ‘I find no cause in him.’ The enemies of Jesus became furious, and
uttered a thousand different accusations against our Saviour. But he remained silent, solely
occupied in praying for his base enemies, and replied not when Pilate addressed him in
these words, ‘Answerest thou nothing? Behold in how many things they accuse thee!’ Pilate was
filled with astonishment, and said, ‘I see plainly that all they allege is false.’ But his
accusers, whose anger continued to increase, cried out, ‘You find no cause in him? Is it no
crime to incite the people to revolt in all parts of the kingdom?—to spread his false
doctrines, not only here, but in Galilee likewise?’
The mention of Galilee made Pilate pause: he reflected for a moment, and then asked, ‘Is
this man a Galilean, and a subject of Herod’s?’ They made answer, ‘He is; his parents lived
at Nazareth, and his present dwelling is in Capharnaum.’
‘Since that is the case,’ replied Pilate, ‘take him before Herod; he is here for the festival,
and can judge him at once, as he is his subject.’ Jesus was immediately led out of the
tribunal, and Pilate dispatched an officer to Herod, to inform him that Jesus of Nazareth,
who was his subject, was about to be brought to him to be judged. Pilate had two reasons
for following this line of conduct; in the first place he was delighted to escape having to pass
sentence himself, as he felt very uncomfortable about the whole affair; and in the second
place he was glad of an opportunity of pleasing Herod, with whom he had had a
disagreement, for he knew him to be very curious to see Jesus.
The enemies of our Lord were enraged at being thus dismissed by Pilate in the presence
of the whole multitude, and gave vent to their anger by ill-treating him even more than
before. They pinioned him afresh, and then ceased not overwhelming him with curses and
blows as they led him hurriedly through the crowd, towards the palace of Herod, which was
situated at no great distance from the forum. Some Roman soldiers had joined the
During the time of the trial Claudia Procles, the wife of Pilate, had sent him frequent
messages to intimate that she wished extremely to speak to him; and when Jesus was sent to
Herod, she placed herself on a balcony and watched the cruel conduct of his enemies with
mingled feelings of fear, grief, and horror.

The Origin of the Way of the Cross.

During the whole of the scene which we have just described, the Mother of Jesus, with
Magdalen and John, had stood in a recess in the forum: they were overwhelmed with the
most bitter sorrow, which was but increased by all they heard and saw. When Jesus was
taken before Herod, John led the Blessed Virgin and Magdalen over the parts which had
been sanctified by his footsteps. They again looked at the house of Caiphas, that of Annas,
Ophel, Gethsemani, and the Garden of Olives; they stopped and contemplated each spot
where he had fallen, or where he had suffered particularly; and they wept silently at the
thought of all he had undergone. The Blessed Virgin knelt down frequently and kissed the
ground where her Son had fallen, while Magdalen wrung her hands in bitter grief, and John,
although he could not restrain his own tears, endeavoured to console his companions,
supported and led them on. Thus was the holy devotion of the ‘Way of the Cross’ first
practised; thus were the Mysteries of the Passion of Jesus first honoured, even before that
Passion was accomplished, and the Blessed Virgin, that model of spotless purity, was the
first to show forth the deep veneration felt by the Church for our dear Lord. How sweet and
consoling to follow this Immaculate Mother, passing to and fro, and bedewing the sacred
spots with her tears. But, ah! Who can describe the sharp, sharp sword of grief which then
transfixed her tender soul? She who had once borne the Saviour of the world in her chaste
womb, and suckled him for so long,—she who had truly conceived him who was the Word
of God, in God from all eternity, and truly God,—she beneath whose heart, full of grace, he
had deigned to dwell nine months, who had felt him living within her before he appeared
among men to impart the blessing of salvation and teach them his heavenly doctrines; she
suffered with Jesus, sharing with him not only the sufferings of his bitter Passion, but
likewise that ardent desire of redeeming fallen man by an ignominious death, which
consumed him.
In this touching manner did the most pure and holy Virgin lay the foundation of the
devotion called the Way of the Cross; thus at each station, marked by the sufferings of her
Son, did she lay up in her heart the inexhaustible merits of his Passion, and gather them up
as precious stones or sweet-scented flowers to be presented as a choice offering to the
Eternal Father in behalf of all true believers. The grief of Magdalen was so intense as to
make her almost like an insane person. The holy and boundless love she felt for our Lord
prompted her to cast herself at his feet, and there pour forth the feelings of her heart (as she
once poured the precious ointment on his head as he sat at table); but when on the point of
following this impulse, a dark gulf appeared to intervene between herself and him. The
repentance she felt for her faults was immense, and not less intense was her gratitude for
their pardon; but when she longed to offer acts of love and thanksgiving as precious incense
at the feet of Jesus, she beheld him betrayed, suffering, and about to die for the expiation of
her offences which he had taken upon himself, and this sight filled her with horror, and
almost rent her soul asunder with feelings of love, repentance, and gratitude. The sight of
the ingratitude of those for whom he was about to die increased the bitterness of these
feelings tenfold, and every step, word, or movement demonstrated the agony of her soul.
The heart of John was filled with love, and he suffered intensely, but he uttered not a word.
He supported the Mother of his beloved Master in this her first pilgrimage through the
stations of the Way of the Cross, and assisted her in giving the example of that devotion
which has since been practised with so much fervour by the members of the Christian

Pilate and his Wife.

Whilst the Jews were leading Jesus to Herod, I saw Pilate go to his wife, Claudia Procles.
She hastened to meet him, and they went together into a small garden-house which was on
one of the terraces behind the palace. Claudia appeared to be much excited, and under the
influence of fear. She was a tall, fine-looking woman, although extremely pale. Her hair was
plaited and slightly ornamented, but partly covered by a long veil which fell gracefully over
her shoulders. She wore earrings, a necklace, and her flowing dress was drawn together and
held up by a species of clasp. She conversed with Pilate for a long time, and entreated him
by all that he held sacred not to injure Jesus, that Prophet, that saint of saints; and she
related the extraordinary dreams or visions which she had had on the previous night
concerning him.
Whilst she was speaking I saw the greatest part of these visions: the following were the
most striking. In the first place, the principal events in the life of our Lord—the
annunciation, the nativity, the adoration of the shepherds and that of the kings, the
prophecy of Simeon and that of Anna, the flight into Egypt, the massacre of the Innocents,
and our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness. She had likewise been shown in her sleep the
most striking features of the public life of Jesus. He always appeared to her environed with a
resplendent light, but his malicious and cruel enemies were under the most horrible and
disgusting forms imaginable. She saw his intense sufferings, his patience, and his
inexhaustible love, likewise the anguish of his Mother, and her perfect resignation. These
visions filled the wife of Pilate with the greatest anxiety and terror, particularly as they were
accompanied by symbols which made her comprehend their meaning, and her tender
feelings were harrowed by the sight of such dreadful scenes. She had suffered from them
during the whole of the night; they were sometimes obscure, but more often clear and
distinct; and when morning dawned and she was roused by the noise of the tumultuous mob
who were dragging Jesus to be judged, she glanced at the procession and instantly saw that
the unresisting victim in the midst of the crows, bound, suffering, and so inhumanely treated
as to be scarcely recognisable, was no other than that bright and glorious being who had
been so often brought before her eyes in the visions of the past night. She was greatly
affected by this sight, and immediately sent for Pilate, and gave him an account of all that
had happened to her. She spoke with much vehemence and emotion; and although there
was a great deal in what she had seen which she could not understand, much less express,
yet she entreated and implored her husband in the most touching terms to grant her request.
Pilate was both astonished and troubled by the words of his wife. He compared the
narration with all he had previously heard concerning Jesus; and reflected on the hatred of
the Jews, the majestic silence of our Saviour, and the mysterious answers he had given to all
his questions. He hesitated for some time, but was at last overcome by the entreaties of his
wife, and told her that he had already declared his conviction of the innocence of Jesus, and
that he would not condemn him, because he saw that the accusations were mere
fabrications of his enemies. He spoke of the words of Jesus to himself, promised his wife
that nothing should induce him to condemn this just man, and even gave her a ring before
they parted as a pledge of his promise.
The character of Pilate was debauched and undecided, but his worst qualities were an
extreme pride and meanness which made him never hesitate in the performance of an unjust
action, provided it answered his ends. He was excessively superstitious, and when in any
difficulty had recourse to charms and spells. He was much puzzled and alarmed about the
trial of Jesus; and I saw him running backwards and forwards, offering incense first to one
god and then to another, and imploring them to assist him; but Satan filled his imagination
with still greater confusion; he first instilled one false idea and then another into his mind.
He then had recourse to one of his favourite superstitious practices, that of watching the
sacred chickens eat, but in vain,—his mind remained enveloped in darkness, and he became
more and more undecided. He first thought that he would acquit our Saviour, whom he
well knew to be innocent, but then he feared incurring the wrath of his false gods if he
spared him, as he fancied he might be a species of demigod, and obnoxious to them. ‘It is
possible,’ said he inwardly, ‘that this man may really be that king of the Jews concerning
whose coming there are so many prophecies. It was a king of the Jews whom the Magi
came from the East to adore. Perhaps he is a secret enemy both of our gods and of the
emperor; it might be most imprudent in me to spare his life. Who knows whether his death
would not be a triumph to my gods?’ Then he remembered the wonderful dreams described
to him by his wife, who had never seen Jesus, and he again changed, and decided that it
would be safer not to condemn him. He tried to persuade himself that he wished to pass a
just sentence; but he deceived himself, for when he asked himself, ‘What is the truth?’ he did
not wait for the answer. His mind was filled with confusion, and he was quite at a loss how
to act, as his sole desire was to entail no risk upon himself.

Jesus before Herod.

The palace of the Tetrarch Herod was built on the north side of the forum, in the new
town; not very far from that of Pilate. An escort of Roman soldiers, mostly from that part of
the country which is situated between Switzerland and Italy, had joined the procession. The
enemies of Jesus were perfectly furious at the trouble they were compelled to take in going
backwards and forwards, and therefore vented their rage upon him. Pilate’s messenger had
preceded the procession, consequently Herod was expecting them. He was seated on a pile
of cushions, heaped together so as to form a species of throne, in a spacious hall, and
surrounded by courtiers and warriors. The Chief Priests entered and placed themselves by
his side, leaving Jesus at the entrance. Herod was much elated and pleased at Pilate’s having
thus publicly acknowledged his right of judging the Galileans, and likewise rejoiced at
seeing that Jesus who had never deigned to appear before him reduced to such a state of
humiliation and degradation. His curiosity had been greatly excited by the high terms in
which John the Baptist had announced the coming of Jesus, and he had likewise heard
much about him from the Herodians, and through the many spies whom he had sent into
different parts: he was therefore delighted at this opportunity of interrogating him in the
presence of the courtiers and of the Jewish priests, hoping to make a grand display of this
own knowledge and talents. Pilate having sent him word, ‘that he could find no cause in the
man,’ he concluded that these words were intended as a hint that he (Pilate) wished the
accusers to be treated with contempt and mistrust. He, therefore, addressed them in the
most haughty distant manner possible, and thereby increased their rage and anger
They all began at once to vociferate their accusations, to which Herod hardly listened,
being intent solely on gratifying his curiosity by a close examination of Jesus, whom he had
so often wished to see. But when he beheld him stripped of all clothing save the remnant of
a mantel, scarcely able to stand, and his countenance totally disfigured from the blows he
had received, and from the mud and missiles which the rabble had flung at his head, the
luxurious and effeminate prince turned away in disgust, uttered the name of God, and said
to the priests in a tone of mingled pity and contempt, ‘Take him hence, and bring him not
back into my presence in such a deplorable state.’ The guards took Jesus into the outer
court, and procured some water in a basin, with which they cleansed his soiled garments
and disfigured countenance; but they could not restrain their brutality even while doing this,
and paid no regard to the wounds with which he was covered.
Herod meantime accosted the priests in much the same strain as Pilate had done. ‘Your
behaviour vastly resembles that of butchers,’ he said, ‘and you commence your immolations
pretty early in the morning.’ The Chief Priests produced their accusations at once. Herod,
when Jesus was again brought into his presence, pretended to feel some compassion, and
offered him a glass of wine to recruit his strength; but Jesus turned his head away and
refused this alleviation.
Herod then began to expatiate with great volubility on all he had heard concerning our
Lord. He asked a thousand questions, and exhorted him to work a miracle in his presence;
but Jesus answered not a word, and stood before him with his eyes cast down, which
conduct both irritated and disconcerted Herod, although he endeavoured to conceal his
anger, and continued his interrogations. He at first expressed surprise, and made use of
persuasive words. ‘Is it possible, Jesus of Nazareth,’ he exclaimed, ‘that it is thou thyself
that appearest before me as a criminal? I have heard thy actions so much spoken of. Thou
art not perhaps aware that thou didst offend me grievously by setting free the prisoners
whom I had confined at Thirza, but possibly thy intentions were good. The Roman
governor has now sent thee to me to be judged; what answer canst thou give to all these
accusations? Thou art silent? I have heard much concerning thy wisdom, and the religion
thou teachest, let me hear thee answer and confound thy enemies. Art thou the king of the
Jews? Art thou the Son of God? Who art thou? Thou art said to have performed wonderful
miracles; work one now in my presence. I have the power to release thee. Is it true that thou
hast restored sight to the blind, raised up Lazarus from the dead, and fed two or three
thousand persons with a few loaves? Why dost thou not answer? I recommend thee to work
a miracle quickly before me; perhaps thou mayest rejoice afterwards at having complied
with my wishes.’
Jesus still kept silence, and Herod continued to question him with even more volubility.
‘Who art thou?’ said he. ‘From whence hast thou thy power? How is it that thou dost no
longer possess it? Art thou he whose birth was foretold in such a wonderful manner? Kings
from the East came to my father to see a newly-born king of the Jews: is it true that thou
wast that child? Didst thou escape when so many children were massacred, and how was
thy escape managed? Why hast thou been for so many years unknown? Answer my
questions! Art thou a king? Thy appearance certainly is not regal. I have been told that thou
wast conducted to the Temple in triumph a short time ago. What was the meaning of such
an exhibition?—speak out at once!—Answer me!’
Herod continued to question Jesus in this rapid manner; but our Lord did not vouchsafe
a reply. I was shown (as indeed I already knew) that Jesus was thus silent because Herod
was in a state of excommunication, both on account of his adulterous marriage with
Herodias, and of his having given orders for the execution of St. John the Baptist. Annas
and Caiphas, seeing how indignant Herod was at the silence of Jesus, immediately
endeavoured to take advantage of his feelings of wrath, and recommenced their accusations,
saying that he had called Herod himself a fox; that his great aim for many years had been
the overthrow of Herod’s family; that he was endeavouring to establish a new religion, and
had celebrated the Pasch on the previous day. Although Herod was extremely enraged at
the conduct of Jesus, he did not lose sight of the political ends which he wished to forward.
He was determined not to condemn our Lord, both because he experienced a secret and
indefinable sensation of terror in his presence, and because he still felt remorse at the
thought of having put John the Baptist to death, besides which he detested the High Priests
for not having allowed him to take part in the sacrifices on account of his adulterous
connection with Herodias.
But his principal reason for determining not to condemn Jesus was, that he wished to
make some return to Pilate for his courtesy, and he thought the best return would be the
compliment of showing deference to his decision and agreeing with him in opinion. But he
spoke in the most contemptuous manner to Jesus, and turning to the guards and servants
who surrounded him, and who were about two hundred in number, said: ‘Take away this
fool, and pay him that homage which is his due; he is mad, rather than guilty of any crime.’
Our Lord was immediately taken into a large court, where every possible insult and
indignity was heaped upon him. This court was between the two wings of the palace, and
Herod stood a spectator on a platform for some time. Annas and Caiphas were by his side,
endeavouring to persuade him to condemn our Saviour. But their efforts were fruitless, and
Herod answered in a tone loud enough to be heard by the Roman soldiers: ‘No, I should act
quite wrongly if I condemned him.’ His meaning was, that it would be wrong to condemn
as guilty one whom Pilate had pronounced innocent, although he had been so courteous as
to defer the final judgment to him.
When the High Priests and the other enemies of Jesus perceived that Herod was
determined no to give in to their wishes, they dispatched emissaries to that division of the
city called Acre, which was chiefly inhabited by Pharisees, to let them know that they must
assemble in the neighbourhood of Pilate’s palace, gather together the rabble, and bribe them
to make a tumult, and demand the condemnation of our Lord. They likewise sent forth
secret agents to alarm the people by threats of the divine vengeance if they did not insist on
the execution of Jesus, whom they termed a sacrilegious blasphemer. These agents were
ordered likewise to alarm them by intimating that if Jesus were not put to death, he would
go over to the Romans, assist in the extermination of the Jewish nation, for that it was to
this he referred when he spoke of his future kingdom. They endeavoured to spread a report
in other parts of the city, that Herod had condemned him, but still that it was necessary for
the people likewise to express their wishes, as his partisans were to be feared; for that if he
were released he would join the Romans, make a disturbance on the festival day, and take
the most inhuman revenge. Some among them circulated contradictory and alarming
reports, in order to excite the people and cause an insurrection; while others distributed
money among the soldiers to bribe them to ill-treat Jesus, so as to cause his death, which
they were most anxious should be brought about as quickly as possible, lest Pilate should
acquit him.
Whilst the Pharisees were busying themselves in this manner, our Blessed Saviour was
suffering the greatest outrages from the brutal soldiers to whom Herod had delivered him,
that they might deride him as a fool. They dragged him into the court, and one of their
number having procured a large white sack which had once been filled with cotton, they
made a hole in its centre with a sword, and then tossed it over the head of Jesus,
accompanying each action with bursts of the most contemptuous laughter. Another soldier
brought the remnant of an old scarlet cloak, and passed it round his neck, while the rest bent
their knee before him—shoved him—abused him—spat upon him—struck him on the
check, because he had refused to answer their king, mocked him by pretending to pay
homage—threw mud upon him—seized him by the waist, pretending to make him dance;
then, having thrown him down, dragged him through a gutter which ran on the side of the
court, thus causing his sacred head to strike against the columns and sides of the wall, and
when at last they raised him up, it was only in order to recommence their insults. The
soldiers and servants of Herod who were assembled in this court amounted to upwards of
two hundred, and all thought to pay court to their monarch by torturing Jesus in some
unheard-of way. Many were bribed by the enemies of our Lord to strike him on the head
with their sticks, and they took advantage of the confusion and tumult to do so. Jesus
looked upon them with compassion; excess of pain drew from him occasional moans and
groans, but his enemies rejoiced in his sufferings, and mocked his moans, and not one
among the whole assembly showed the slightest degree of compassion. I saw blood
streaming from his head, and three times did the blows prostrate him, but angels were
weeping at his side, and they anointed his head with heavenly balsam. It was revealed to me
that had it not been for this miraculous assistance he must have died from those wounds.
The Philistines at Gaza, who gave vent to their wrath by tormenting poor blind Samson;
were far less barbarous than these cruel executioners of our Lord.
The priests were, however, impatient to return to the Temple; therefore, having made
certain that their orders regarding Jesus would be obeyed, they returned to Herod, and
endeavoured to persuade him to condemn our Lord. But he, being determined to do all in
his power to please Pilate, refused to accede to their wishes, and sent Jesus back again
clothed in the fool’s garment.