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)

miércoles, 5 de julio de 2017


The House of Savoy used to provide copies of the Holy Shroud to the Pope. More copies were also given to distinguished pilgrims who visited Turin. Consequently, there are more than a hundred copies of the Holy Shroud spread around the world: Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Portugal, Czech Republic, Malta, Mexico, Argentina, United States and Canada.

Linens were used in order to make, wrap and protect the Shroud before rolling it up using a wooden cedar roller. Many copies of the Shroud are kept in Spanish churches, convents and shrines. They are copies which date from the 15th century. They were considered relics, so they should have come in contact with the original one of Turin. In that way, the copies would acquire their miraculous properties.

The memory of this contact is commonly reflected on the copies or their documents. Thus, it can be read expressions like ‘Extractum ex originali’, ‘accurate copy from the original one’, ‘copy obtained in a miraculous way’ or ‘true portrait from the original one’.

Allegory of the Holy Shroud and the Virgin (18th century). Brotherhood of María Santísima de Araceli. Lucena (Córdoba).

Copy of the Holy Shroud given by the Pope to the Spanish ambassador in the Vatican, Enrique Guzmán y Rivera, 2nd Count of Olivares (17th century). Basilica of La Caridad, Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cádiz).

Reliquary of the Holy Shroud with the original frame made of ebony and tortoiseshell and silver corner pieces. It was donated to the shrine by the MARCHIONESS OF LOS VÉLEZ, MRS MARÍA OF ARAGÓN, VICEROY OF NAPLES AND SARDINIA. Brotherhood of María Santísima de Araceli. Lucena (Córdoba).


15th century
  • Sant Feliu de Guíxols (Girona), parish church.

16th century
  • Noalejo (Jaén), Church of La Asunción.
  • Valladolid, Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena.
  • Guadalupe (Cáceres), Monastery of Guadalupe.
  • Navarrete (La Rioja), parish church.
  • Alcoy (Alicante), Convent of Santo Sepulcro.
  • Toledo, Convent of Las Comendadoras.
  • El Escorial (Madrid). Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
  • Porreras (Balearic Islands). Clergy House.

17th century
  • Torres de la Alameda (Madrid), Church of La Asunción.
  • Logroño, Cathedral of Santa María de la Redondela.
  • Castillo de Garcimuñoz (Cuenca), parish church.
  • Escamilla (Guadalajara), parish church.
  • Silos (Burgos), Abbey of Santo Domingo.
  • Campillo de Aragón (Zaragoza), parish church.
  • La Cuesta (Soria), Church of Nuestra Señora de los Valles.
  • Salamanca, Convent of Las Agustinas.
  • Escalona del Prado (Segovia), parish church.
  • Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cádiz), Basilica of La Caridad.
  • Badolatosa (Seville), parish church.
  • Lucena (Córdoba), Shrine of Virgen de Araceli.


The birth of the Roman Empire was preceded by the expansion of Rome’s power. It was difficult to rule such a vast empire. Moreover, the growing army demanded a principal military and political authority. In that way, well-known people such as Julius Caesar emerged. His main goal was the power and he died because of daring the authority of the Roman Senate. The Empire, as a political system, appeared after civil wars that followed Julius Caesar’s death, at the end of the Roman Republic.

Augustus, Julius Caesar’s adopted son, defeated the alliance between Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and secured his imperial power by undertaking important reforms. He also consolidated a political and cultural unity which occupied the Mediterranean lands. This supremacy would last five centuries. Only their names are enough to evoke the power of the Empire.

(63 BC/14 AD)

He was the first emperor of Rome. His reign was the longest one. He ordered to take a census of the Roman Empire when Jesus of Nazareth was born.

(42 BC/37AD)

He was the second emperor of Rome. The Gospels say that Jesus of Nazareth was executed during his reign due to Pontius Pilate’s commands, who was his governor in Judea.

Julio-Claudian dynasty

Reign period
Imperial name
From 27 BC to 14 AD
From 14 AD to 37 AD
From 37 AD to 41 AD
From 41 AD to 54 AD
From 54 AD to 68 AD


Jesus was stripped naked when he arrived at the Calvary. As a condemned man, they offered him wine mixed with myrrh (narcotic mixing). Then, the horizontal log was put behind his head and his arms were tied up in order to facilitate the crucifixion.

The executioners made sure that the prisoner did not move while they were nailing his hands. An iron mallet was used to hit the nails, which went through the bones of the wrists and then through holes of the wood. Once the nails were completely nailed, they stuck out a little and consequently were riveted.

Next, the log was raised while Jesus’s hands were nailed. At the same time, other executioners waited for the lifting of the horizontal log (patibulum) in order to fix it with the vertical one (stipes). Finally, they held his feet and bent his knees in order to pierce his feet with a longer nail. According to the Gospels, it can be deduced that the low-level cross would be ‘immissa’ or ‘capitata’, and a ‘titulus’ above it would have been put as usual, in order to express the cause of the sentence.

The crucifixion would be carried out in a few minutes. Jesus’s death would take place due to asphyxia and a multiple organ failure. In addition, he was finished off with a spear thrust on the side…

martes, 4 de julio de 2017

Desde el siglo XIII se extiende por Occidente una sorprendente e impactante iconografía cristífera: la del Varón de Dolores, Ecce Homo o según la profesora italiana Laura Stagno, la imagen del Vir Dolorum, que constituye uno de los puntos cardinales en los que se basa el argumento de la evolución de la Imago pietatis entre Oriente y Occidente. 

Stagno (2007) plantea que esta iconografía refleja una variación del motivo original presente en ámbito bizantino en la primera mitad del siglo XIII y adoptada por el arte occidental, que extiende la figura de Cristo de manera que representa las manos del Salvador cruzadas delante del cuerpo. Un cambio que la profesora italiana asocia a la influencia del culto de la Sábana Santa, venerada entonces en Constantinopla, en la cual aparece esa posición de las manos.

En las crónicas de Robert de Clary (1204), historiador francés y testigo presencial, dice clara y textualmente: “Había otro monasterio que se llamaba Santa María de Blanquerna donde estaba la Síndone en la que nuestro Señor fue envuelto. Sobre cada uno de los lados aparecía como si estuviera de pie, de manera que se podía ver perfectamente la figura de Nuestro Señor”.

Esta IV Cruzada terminó con el saqueo de Constantinopla y el robo de riquezas y de reliquias, entre ellas la Sábana Santa. En un documento de queja al Papa Inocencio III, fechado en 1205, escrito por el hermano del emperador bizantino depuesto, aparece la mención a que los galos habían robado el lienzo que envolvió el cuerpo de Jesús en el sepulcro. 

La iconografía de la Imago o Varón de Dolores, especialmente simbólica, aparecería en Occidente a partir de mediados del siglo XIII, sobre todo en el ámbito francés e italiano. Considerándose relevante que fueran, precisamente, franceses quienes se llevaron la Síndone de Constantinopla y los que a partir del siglo XIV la expondrán de nuevo de forma pública en la ciudad francesa de Lirey... 

STAGNO, L. (2007). Culto de sangre, compartir la pasión y la emoción del sacrificio eucarístico: la iconografía del vir dolorum en Génova y Liguria, en El arte sacro. El conocimiento de lo divino a través de los sentidos, Actas de la conferencia, editado por L. Estanque, Génova, Naturaleza y artificio - MicroArt de 2009, 151-168.