The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
|Christ bearing his cross - Martin Schongauer|
In the Forum took place the scourging and the crowning with thorns. Still back of these parts of the buildings were the private rooms of the procurator, and farther to the south were the barracks of the soldiers, officers' quarters, and the places for the Roman guards overlooking the Temple, watching that no insurrection took place during the gatherings and feasts of the Jews.
In the spring of 1903 the Franciscans bought a part of the site of this palace, and the writer visited the place and took measurements. There they had uncovered part of a stairway, leading to the Forum, about thirty feet wide, the steps being ten inches high. The stairway faced the west, and it looked as though this was the imposing staircase down which Jesus went that day bearing His cross. In the convent established by the converted Jew, M. Ratisbonne, kept by the Sisters of Sion he established, forming the cellar floor is the pavement of the street leading from this great stairway to Calvary. The pavement is about seven feet below the narrow street now called the Via Dolorosa, " the Sad Street," down which Jesus Christ passed carrying His cross on the way to death. You can still see the imprints of the Roman chariots in the paving stones.
To the south of the great staircase, where the stone steps end, was once a chapel, and the altar is just in the spot where Jesus Christ stood in the Forum when Pilate questioned Him. Around were the stones of the pavement called the Lithostrotos " the Pavement " mentioned in St, John's Gospel. (John xix, 18) At the head of the great staircase, but farther within, to the east of the space where Pilate's palace stood, rose the great rock on which the palace fortress was built. In the living rock had been cut a cistern, about ten feet deep and seven in diameter, perfectly round. It was shaped like a great bottle, the opening being about twelve inches wide. At the west side of this opening was cut in the rock a little passage with steps down which a man could descend to clean the cistern. The cistern walls were all covered with about an inch of cement very hard, and which retained the water. The idea struck the writer forcibly, that this was the place where Pilate got the water with which to wash his hands, when he declared Christ innocent. To the north of the excavations the rock was covered with the debris of centuries, and houses were built on the hill. The Franciscans who guard the Holy Places, and under whose directions the work was being carried on, hoped to be able later to buy the whole site of Pilate's palace.
To the south, across the Via Dolorosa, are the Turkish barracks for the soldiers. You go up an incline, and enter a large court with the building all around for the guards. Through a gate you can pass to the south and find yourself in the Temple area. It is evident from the space occupied, that Pilate's palace was very large, and the buildings must have been quite extensive in the time of Christ.
Now let us see that Calvary towards which all the priests; Levites, and people faced while the magnificent Temple sacrifices and services, the image of a pontifical Mass, were being carried out.
Among the Orientals scattered though many nations from most remote ages legends and traditions are handed down, all agreeing, relating to the fall of man, the history of the human race before the flood, and the promise of a Redeemer. In cuneiform characters, in ancient histories, in teachings of the Babylonians, in folklore of Arabians, in Talmudic writings, here and there we find them. We do not say they are true, but we give them as we find them, and let the reader judge for himself.
Oriental legends say Eve brought forth twins thirty two times and the boy married his twin sister. With Cain was born a sister called Ripha, "the wanderer," whom he married. 1 Abel was born without a twin sister, he never married, being a type of Christ.
Expelled from Eden, Adam and Eve wandered for two hundred years, till they met on a hill of Arabia. There they lived drinking of the waters of the sacred spring now called the Zem-Zem They built a shrine like the one they had in Paradise, around which with the angels they used to go in a procession seven times a day, worshiping God before the fall of man. This shrine was destroyed by the flood, but the patriarchs rebuilt it. It was at that well that Ismael drank when he was dying with thirst in the desert. (Gen xxi) Abraham visited his son Ismael, and helped him to restore the shrine. In the lapse of ages a city grew up around the well and shrine called Mecca. Mohammed thought he was called by God to restore the pure worship of the patriarchs, and purify it from the pagan customs which had crept in To-day, in the great square of Mecca, rises the ancient shrine called the Caaba. There each Mohammedan comes on a pilgrimage once in his life, and joins the procession around that sacred shrine as seven times they circle it in worship of Alla, " God Almighty." Such is their tradition of the beginnings of a religion, which to-day 200,000,000 of people follow. They receive Christ as a great Prophet, and honor his Mother with an ever-burning light before her life-size statue in the Temple area, in Jerusalem, beside the stairs going down to " Solomon's Stables." Their Coran or Sacred Book was written by Sergius, a monk from Constantinople, who had fallen into Nestorius' heresy, who taught that Jesus was not God, nor the Son of God, but a man, on whom the Holy Spirit came, as on the other prophets. We have given these things to show the origin of a religion the greatest foe of Christianity.
1 Dutripon, Concordance of the Bible, Cain. He quotes St. Chrysostom as his authority.