jueves, 27 de julio de 2017


Relics are historical testimonies, objects of worship or proofs of faith. The canonical law demands that every altar needs to have a relic of a saint or a martyr. It is a way of remembering the masses celebrated by the first Christians, who asked for the intercession of the saints on their graves.

Jesus’ relics are the most valued and worshipped ones. The Titulus Crucis of Rome, fragments of the Cross (lignum crucis), the Holy Grail of Valencia, the Shroud of Turin and the Holy Sudarium of Oviedo are the most relevant relics of the Passion of Jesus.

The possible inscription of the Cross of Christ is kept in the Roman Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, which was built by Saint Helena. It is a rectangular piece of wood in which there are inscriptions in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. This relic has been studied by the researcher Michael Hasemann.

There are two relics of the Cross of Christ in Spain, specifically in Liébana (Cantabria) and Caravaca (Murcia). The Holy Grail is in the Cathedral of Valencia. It is a goblet made of eastern carnelian agate which dates from the first century before Christ. A base was added to the cup in the Middle Ages. A group of researchers of the Spanish Centre of Sindonology have elaborated a multidisciplinary study of the grail.

Fragment of the Title of the Cross of Rome.

Reconstruction of the original text of Titulus Christi by J. Marini.

Reliquary of the Titulus Crucis. Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem in Rome (Italy).

Joan de Joanes. The last supper (1562). Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

Holy Grail. Cathedral of Valencia.

The Lignum Crucis of Liébana is the biggest relic of the Cross which has been admitted by the Church.

Cross of Caravaca (Murcia)

Saint Helena supervises the excavations in order to find the True Cross. Jan Van Eyck. Miniature of ‘Hours of Notre Dame’ (toward 1424) Turin (Italy). 

miércoles, 26 de julio de 2017


The historical reality of the Passion of Jesus is collected in four main sources: Pagan Roman, Jewish, Rabbinical and Christian sources.

The first allusion to Jesus is a Roman letter written by Pliny the Younger to Emperor Hadrian (toward 112 AD). Later, Jesus is also mentioned by Suetonius and Tacitus. There are not many Jewish and Rabbinical testimonies, but the most important one was written by the historian Josephus, who was a Jew at the service of the Roman Empire and the author of ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ (toward 93 AD). There is not another Jewish work before 130 AD that refers to Jesus. There are only Rabbinical sources such as comments about the Talmud (written law) after the second century which make reference to the existence of Christ.

The most abundant sources would be the Christian ones, specifically the canonical and apocryphal Gospels, the Pauline epistles as well as other quotes originating from literary traditions of the primitive Church.

The Gospels are not history books, but contain a lot of information about events related to Jesus of Nazareth. The evangelists do not try to make an impartial history of the Passion of Jesus, even though they are not fictitious nor false. They only reconstruct and interpret the facts. That is why there are many gospels written in the Antiquity, although four of them were only accepted by the Church and considered as canonical ones.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke date from 70 AD, when the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by Emperor Titus. They are synoptic gospels because they are mutually connected. They have a common source known as ‘Q’, which is a collection of sayings of Jesus. It would be a well-known compilation and each author used and interpreted it in his own way. The Gospel of John dates from the end of the first century and it seems to use a different source –oral or written- about the miracles of Christ.

The apocryphal Gospels are not accepted by the catholic orthodoxy, although many of them gather aspects which are admitted by the tradition. Most of them date from the third and the fourth centuries. Consequently, historical Christian churches considered that they misinterpreted the meaning of the word ‘Gospel’ (Good News).

Papyrus manuscript 75, Gospels of Luke and John (toward 175-220)

Papyrus manuscript 90, small fragment of the gospel of John (end of the first century)

Papyrus manuscript 66, Gospel of John

Papyrus manuscript 28, Gospel of John in Greek (end of the third century)

Titus Flavius Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews (toward 93. Edition 1466)

Papyrus manuscript of Oxyrhynchus. Apocryphal gospel of Thomas written in the middle of the third century.

Symbols of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Niculoso Pisano (toward 1525) Museum of Fine Arts (Seville)
The authors of the Gospels (St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke and St John) are symbolically represented as the four living beings of the Revelation 4, 7: ‘The first living being is a lion; the second one is an ox; the third one is a man; and the four one is an eagle’.

Apocryphal gospels

Lost apocryphal gospels

Gospel of the Hebrews
Gospel of the Egyptians
Gospel of Mary
Gospel of Judas
Gospel of Marcion
Apocryphal gospel of John
Gospel of Truth
Memories of the Apostles
Gospel of Apelles
Gospel of Eve

Apocryphal gospels about the Nativity and the Infancy

Infancy gospel of Thomas
Arabic infancy gospel
Armenian infancy gospel
Book of the Nativity of Mary
Gospel of James
Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

Apocryphal gospels about the Passion and the Resurrection

Gospel of Peter
Acts of Pilate or Gospel of Nicodemus
Gospel of Bartholomew


Book of Saint John of Thessaloniki
Story of Pseudo-Joseph of Arimathea
Secret gospel of Mark
Gospel of Pseudo-James
Cathar gospel of Pseudo-John
Gospel of the Hebrews
Gospel of the Ebionites
Gospel of Barnabas
Gospel of Tatian
Gospel of the Nazarenes
Gospel of Ammonius
Gospel of the Vengeance of the Saviour
Apocryphal gospel of Galilee

Apocryphal gnostic gospels of Nag Hammadi

Gospel of Philip
Gospel of Thomas

viernes, 21 de julio de 2017


Golgotha is the name the Gospels give to the place where Jesus was executed. The Aramaic term ‘Golgotha’ or the Greek one ‘Kránion’ (skull) refer to the same place. The term Calvary comes from the Latin root ‘calva’ which equally comes from the Greek term. This place is located in the interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, among architectural structures and under the remains of an old Roman temple which was built after the destruction of Jerusalem (130 AD) and its transformation into Aelia Capitolina by Hadrian. The church is managed by three Christian communities: the Roman Catholic, the Greek Orthodox and the Armenian Orthodox communities. The Calvary would be a flat rock, round at the top, 20 feet high and 23 feet long. The Chapel of the Crucifixion is built on this rock. It can be found a cavity known as the Cave of Adam under the chapel. The east part of the Calvary faces to Jerusalem and the west one is a slope that faces to the sepulchre, which is excavated in the rock 42 yards away.

Saint Helena of Constantinople -Emperor Constantine the Great’s mother- travelled to Jerusalem in 326 AD. She identified the place of the crucifixion, the grave (‘anastasis’/resurrection) and unearthed the Cross (discovery) and other Christ’s relics. Those places were located under the Temple of Venus, inside the third northern wall of Jerusalem which was built by Herod Agrippa (41-44 AD). However, those locations were outside the second wall, which marked the borders of the city in the first century. These facts were recorded by the historian Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea (Palestine).

Front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem)

Bulgarian Orthodox icon of Constantine and Saint Helena

The Calvary was in a former quarry located outside the second wall, which marked the borders of Jerusalem in the first century. The Sepulchre was a few feet away. The water well was before the Sepulchre and it is the place where Saint Helena found the True Cross and other relics.

Cross section of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem) and locations of the Holy Places

Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre: funerary chamber

Demolished slope for the construction of the temple in the 4th century

Sepulchre: burial chamber

Calvary rock

Cave of Adam

Map of the Chapel of Adam

Cracked rock

Map of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

A. Atrium
B. Unction Stone
C. Holy Sepulchre
D. Chapel of the Apparition
E. Chapel of Saint Helena
F. Discovery of the Cross
G. Golgotha
H. Choir of the Greeks

1. Chapel of Saint James
2. Chapel of Saint John
3. Chapel of the 40 Martyrs
4. Convent of Saint Abraham
5. Chapel of Saint John
6. Chapel of Saint Michael
8. Bell tower
9. Chapel of the Franks
10. Chapel of Saint Mary of Egypt
11. Turkish boardroom
12. Rock of the Saint Women
13. Chapel of the Angel
14. Sepulchre of Christ
15. Chapel of the Copts
16. Chapel of the Syrians
17. Grave of Joseph of Arimathea
18. Passage
19. Water well
20. Chapel of Magdalene
21. Monastery of Franciscans
22. Vestry
23. Virgin’s arches
24. Prison of Christ
25. Ambulatory
26. Chapel of Saint Longinus
27. Chapel of the Dresses God
28. Chapel of the insults
29. Chapel of Adam
30. Choir of the Franciscans

Possessions of

Latin people
Latin people’s procession

Map of the Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Florentino Díez Fernández.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem): Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre

Chapel of Adam

Altar of the Chapel of the Crucifixion (Calvary)

lunes, 17 de julio de 2017


Jesus of Nazareth was arrested in Gethsemane, which was a garden located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, during the night of 14 Nisan in 30 AD. He was taken to the high priest Caiaphas’ palace and he was judged there before the Sanhedrin. This assembly considered him a blasphemous person.

Jesus was appeared before Pontius Pilate the following morning. He was questioned and he was not found guilty. Thus, he was sent to the king Herod Antipas (Hasmonean palace). But the king did not want to punish Jesus, so he was sent to the Roman Procurator again.

Jesus would deal with two trials: a religious one (Jewish law) and a political one (Roman law). A political authority was requested to decide and pronounce sentence due to the coexistence of the two laws. Furthermore, it was considered as a criminal process. Pontius Pilate judged that Jesus did not deserve the death according to the Lex Iulia, so he decided to impose a punishment, the flagelatio. In addition, Romans teased and insulted the prisoner crowning him with thorns. Then, Pilate took Jesus before the crowd. The people asked for his crucifixion.

Pontius Pilate washed his hands in order to express his innocence, because he found himself forced to condemn Jesus. Thus, he conceded his placet to the death sentence asked by the Jewish people. Ibis ad crucem (you will be crucified).

Herod the Great’s palace was the residence of the Roman governor during his stay in Jerusalem. The trial against Jesus took place in this building (Praetorium), as well as the flagellation and the passing of the final sentence. Jesus would leave at noon from there, shouldering the horizontal log. He was dressed, barefoot and wearing a helmet or crown of thorns covering his head.

He would go down through tortuous, steep and slippery streets of the hillside where the Herod’s palace was located. He probably fell down many times. He crossed the inner wall through the Gennat gate and passed through a small bridge. He continued walking through a ravine that led to the Tyropoeon Valley and he climbed slightly towards the gate of Ephraim, also known as Judicial Gate, located in the western part of the city. There, Roman soldiers realised that it was impossible the prisoner was able to reach the Calvary due to his physical conditions. That is why a worker, who was there in that moment, helped Jesus.

This final stretch was out of the city in the direction to Emmaus and Jaffa. He would turn right in order to go to the Calvary, beside the mount al-Gareb, where three vertical wooden posts would have been put.

The Calvary was located in quarry on the outskirts of the city. This hill was useless for quarrying purposes. Model of Jerusalem in the first century. (Holy Land West Hotel. Jerusalem).

Giotto di Bondone, Christ before Caiaphas (1306)

Lucas Cranach, The crowning of thorns (1510)

Caravaggio, Flagellation (1607)

Antonio Ciseri, Ecce Homo (1871)

Jesus carrying the Cross, Sebastiano del Piombo (1516)

Map of the Way of the Cross (González Echegaray)

miércoles, 12 de julio de 2017


Judea, Samaria and Idumea became part of the Roman Empire as a province ruled by a governor known as Procurator or Prefect, from the dismissal of Herod Archelaus (6 AD) until the return of the monarchy (41 AD) headed by Herod Agrippa II.

The governors of Judea were the following: Coponius, Marcus Ambivulus, Annius Rufus, Valerius Gratus, Pontius Pilate, Marcellus and Marullus. Troops that occupied Judea were not legions but auxiliary troops formed by people from far provinces. The troops took the names of those provinces. The majority of this army were in the capital Caesarea, while a permanent garrison would be in Jerusalem.

Auxiliary soldiers were equipped like Roman legionaries but there were some differences. They sometimes used defensive elements such as LEATHER OR METAL BREASTPLATE (lorica segmentata) or COAT OF MAIL (lorica hamata), metal strips hung from a belt (balteus) and metal helmet. They wore a square woollen tunic with slits for the arms and the head, and leather sandals which covered their legs (greaves). They also carried a big rectangular flat shield, a sword (spatha or gladius) hung from belts on the right side and a dagger (pugio) on the left side. They could also carry spear (lancea or pilum).

Pontius Pilate was the prefect or procurator of the Roman province of Judea from 26 AD to 36 AD. He was in charge of maintaining the order in the province and he also had to run justice and economy. He went down in history as the person who commanded the execution of Jesus of Nazareth. According to the historians Philo of Alexandria and Titus Flavius Josephus, the relationship between Pontius Pilate and the Jewish people were not good enough. This fact is also referred by St Luke (13, 1). It was a turbulent period in Palestine and the governor was characterised by his corruption, violence and abusive behaviour. Executions of prisoners were frequent in those days.

Lucius Vitellius, who was governor of Syria, removed Pontius Pilate from his charge and sent him to Rome in order to give reasons for the violent repression against Samarian people in the Mount Gerizim in 35 AD. But Pilate arrived to Rome after the death of Tiberius. According to Eusebius of Caesarea, Pontius Pilate fell out of favour under the reign of Caligula and he finally committed suicide.

Roman cohorts in Judea (1st century):
  • Cohors I and II THRACUM (Thracians)
  • Cohors II CANTABRORUM (Cantabri)

Trajan’s Column (Rome) 114 AD

Roman centurion tombstone from Colchester (England)

(Pilate’s stone. Israel Antique Collection, Museum of Israel, Jerusalem). Latin stone inscription found in Caesarea, which was a Roman city founded by Herod the Great in the first century in the Emperor Augustus’s honour.

Pilate washing his hands. Luca Giordano – 1660. Museo Nacional del Prado (Madrid)

Prutah (26-36 AD). PONTIUS PILATE. – JUDEA.  Head: three ears and legend. Reverse: prow of ship.

viernes, 7 de julio de 2017


Pompey the Great conquered Jerusalem in 63 BC, and consequently Palestine was under the control of Rome. Thus, Judea became part of the Roman province of Syria during the first century, which was the eighth century of the Roman foundation. Rome tried to preserve the local traditions. It controlled the foreign affairs and the currency and imposed taxes. This region was ruled by a Roman procurator who coexisted with the former Royal Jewish family represented by Herod the Great and his son, Herod Antipas. They ruled as vassal kings from 37 BC to 39 AD.

Palestine was a mix of different cultures in the days of Jesus. Jewish culture was the main one. Jewish people spoke in Aramaic and the most educated ones spoke in Hebrew. There were also Greeks who spoke in a dialect called ‘Koine’. The language Jesus spoke would be the Aramaic Galilee dialect. It is possible that he would also speak in Greek and Hebrew.

Hispania was completely romanised during the first century. Its three provinces –Tarraconensis, Baetica and Lusitania- were benefited from great development and prosperity. The presence of Roman soldiers and traders and the involvement of Hispanic people in the Roman army meant the establishment of important Roman colonies such as Tarraco, Italica, Corduba, Emerita Augusta.

Jerusalem is sieged and destroyed by the Romans under the command of Titus in 70 AD. David Roberts (1850)

Reconstruction of Jerusalem and Herod’s Temple. James Tissot (1886)

Map of Jerusalem in the days of Christ. (1584)

Model of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem. (Israel Museum)

Map of Palestine in the days of Jesus. (Places quoted in the Gospels)

Sestertius of Vespasian which commemorates the conquest of Judea (66 AD)

John the Baptist before Herod, Martínez Montañés. (1610-1620) Iglesia de la Anunciación (Seville)