Flagellation of Christ

Flagellation of Christ

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The Flagellation
Flagellation or flogging is the act of methodically beating or whipping the human body. Specialised implements for it include rods, switches, the cat o' nine tails and the sjambok...

 of Christ
, sometimes known as Christ at the Column or the Scourging at the Pillar, is a scene from the Passion of Christ very frequently shown in Christian art
Christian art
Christian art is sacred art produced in an attempt to illustrate, supplement and portray in tangible form the principles of Christianity, though other definitions are possible. Most Christian groups use or have used art to some extent, although some have had strong objections to some forms of...

, in cycles of the Passion or the larger subject of the Life of Christ
Life of Christ
The Life of Christ as a narrative cycle in Christian art comprises a number of different subjects, which were often grouped in series or cycles of works in a variety of media, narrating the life of Jesus on earth, as distinguished from the many other subjects in art showing the eternal life of...

. It is the fourth station of the modern alternate Stations of the Cross
Stations of the Cross
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. The tradition as chapel devotion began with St...

, and a Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary
The rosary or "garland of roses" is a traditional Catholic devotion. The term denotes the prayer beads used to count the series of prayers that make up the rosary...

. The column to which Christ is normally tied, and the rope, scourge
A scourge is a whip or lash, especially a multi-thong type used to inflict severe corporal punishment or self-mortification on the back.-Description:...

, whip or birch are elements in the Arma Christi
Arma Christi
Arma Christi , or the Instruments of the Passion, are the objects associated with Jesus' Passion in Christian symbolism and art....

. The Basilica di Santa Prassede in Rome, claimed to possess the original column.


The event is mentioned in three of the four canonical Gospels, and was the usual prelude to crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

 under Roman law
Roman law
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, and the legal developments which occurred before the 7th century AD — when the Roman–Byzantine state adopted Greek as the language of government. The development of Roman law comprises more than a thousand years of jurisprudence — from the Twelve...

. In the Passion of Christ it precedes the Mocking of Christ and the Crowning with thorns
Crown of Thorns
In Christianity, the Crown of Thorns, one of the instruments of the Passion, was woven of thorn branches and placed on Jesus Christ before his crucifixion...


It first appears in art in the West in the 9th century. It is almost never found in Byzantine art
Byzantine art
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 5th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453....

, and remains very rare in Eastern Orthodox art at any date. Initially found in illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

s and small ivories, there are surviving monumental wall-paintings from around 1000 in Italy. From the start there are most often three figures, Christ and two servants of Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilatus , known in the English-speaking world as Pontius Pilate , was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from AD 26–36. He is best known as the judge at Jesus' trial and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus...

 who whip him. In early depictions Christ may be naked, or wearing a long robe, facing out or seen from behind; from the 12th century it is standard that Christ wears a loincloth and faces out towards the viewer.

Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilatus , known in the English-speaking world as Pontius Pilate , was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from AD 26–36. He is best known as the judge at Jesus' trial and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus...

 is sometimes shown watching the scene, and his wife's servant may approach him with her message
Pontius Pilate's wife
Pontius Pilate's wife is unnamed in the New Testament, where she appears a single time in the Gospel of Matthew. Alternate Christian traditions have referred to her as Saint Procula or Saint Claudia, and the combinations Claudia Procles and Claudia Procula have been used...

, and in the later Middle Ages, probably under the influence of Passion play
Passion play
A Passion play is a dramatic presentation depicting the Passion of Jesus Christ: his trial, suffering and death. It is a traditional part of Lent in several Christian denominations, particularly in Catholic tradition....

s, the number of men beating Christ may be three or four, increasingly caricatured in the North as grotesque figures in the dress of contemporary mercenaries. Sometimes another figure, who may be Herod
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

, is present. The Flagellation was at the hands of those working for Pontius Pilate, but the floggers may sometimes wear Jewish hats, Following the Maestá
Maestà (Duccio)
The Maestà, or Maestà of Duccio is an altarpiece composed of many individual paintings commissioned by the city of Siena in 1308 from the artist Duccio di Buoninsegna. The front panels make up a large enthroned Madonna and Child with saints and angels, and a predella of the Childhood of Christ...

 of Duccio
Duccio di Buoninsegna was one of the most influential Italian artists of his time. Born in Siena, Tuscany, he worked mostly with pigment and egg tempera and like most of his contemporaries painted religious subjects...

, the scene may take place in public, before an audience of the Jewish people.

The Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

s, who promoted self-flagellation as a means of identification with the suffering of Christ, were probably responsible for a number of large Italian processional crosses in which the Flagellation occupies the back of the cross, with a Crucifixion on the front. These were presumably sometimes followed in processions by flagellants, who could see Christ suffering in front of them.

From the 15th century the subject is also painted in individual works, rather than as one of a series of Passion scenes. At the same time Christ at the Column or Christ at the Stake developed as an image of Christ alone tied to a column or stake. This was most popular in Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 sculpture, and also related to the subject, not found in the canonical Gospels, of Christ in the Dungeon. It is often difficult to distinguish between these two, and between Christ at the Column and a Flagellation.

In modern times, filmmakers have depicted Christ being flogged. It is a significant scene in Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson
Mel Colm-Cille Gerard Gibson, AO is an American actor, film director, producer and screenwriter. Born in Peekskill, New York, Gibson moved with his parents to Sydney, Australia when he was 12 years old and later studied acting at the Australian National Institute of Dramatic Art.After appearing in...

's 2004
2004 in film
The year 2004 in film involved some significant events. Major releases of sequels took place. It included blockbuster films like Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Passion of the Christ, Meet the Fockers, Blade: Trinity, Spider-Man 2, Alien vs. Predator, Kill Bill Vol...

 The Passion of the Christ
The Passion of the Christ
The Passion of the Christ is a 2004 American drama film directed by Mel Gibson and starring Jim Caviezel as Jesus. It depicts the Passion of Jesus largely according to the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John...

. In Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange (film)
A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 film adaptation of Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel of the same name. It was written, directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick...

, Alex imagines himself as a Roman soldier flogging Jesus.

Notable examples

Single works:
  • Flagellation of Christ (Piero della Francesca)
    Flagellation of Christ (Piero della Francesca)
    The Flagellation of Christ is a painting by Piero della Francesca in the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche in Urbino, Italy. Called by one writer an "enigmatic little painting," the composition is complex and unusual, and its iconography has been the subject of widely differing theories...

  • Christ at the Column (Antonello da Messina)
    Christ at the Column (Antonello da Messina)
    Christ at the Column is a small painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Antonello da Messina, finished around 1475, showing the Flagellation of Christ. It is in the Louvre in Paris....

     ca. 1475
  • Flagellation of Christ (Caravaggio) 1607
  • Christ at the Column (Caravaggio)
    Christ at the Column (Caravaggio)
    Christ at the Column , is a painting by the Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio, currently housed in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, Rouen, France....


In cycles: