The Nightmare of the Crucifixion

Oh! what to say about the Crucifixion and death of Our Lord? The whole events that lead up to this moment are nightmarish and scary, but they are nothing compared to the actual Crucifixion.

Reading John’s account of the gospel — after all, He was the only disciple who saw the Crucifixion up close — it reads like a hodgepodge of nightmarish details. He doesn’t describe the Crucifixion at length — indeed, he only mentions that it happened. But he writes about other things at length.

The argument with Pontius Pilate and the chief priests about what the title on Jesus’s cross is.

The argument about His cloak.

The women at the foot of the cross.

Just look at the gospel account:

It is almost as if the whole event was so nightmarish that these details stuck out painfully. After all, who were the only disciples who stuck near Jesus? The women and St. John. Everybody else had run away. What did the soldiers focus on? Not on Christ, but on His clothes. What did the chief priests object to? Not the horrific crucifixion of an innocent man that was happening right in front of them, but rather the words right above Christ.

And, all throughout, the crucified Jesus is front and center of this scene.

Many artists that depicted this crucifixion scene tried to include all of these little details into the art. And so, many Crucifixion pictures are chock full of little art details. Just take a look at this artwork:

Crucifixion, by Peter Gertner, c. 1537. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, United States. Via
Crucifixion, by Peter Gertner, c. 1537. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, United States.

And so you’ll see the women at the foot of the cross, Mary Magdalene embracing the Cross as she is often depicted as doing. St. John comforts the Virgin Mary, who is dressed in black and veiled in a white cloth, while the other Mary wipes tears from her face.

But there are also other details. An official in a yellow turban and riding on a horse is pointing out Jesus, looking back at another man, probably Pontius Pilate, and complaining about the sign on the Cross, whereas Pontius Pilate just gazes at the scene and declares it to be right.

Then, amidst all the soldiers, four soldiers crouch down, oblivious to the horror of the scene, casting lots for Jesus’s tunic.

It is a busy scene, a chaotic scene in which so much seems to be happening that is hard to pick out every art detail.

And yet, in the middle of this chaos, there is Jesus, crucified. And while everybody else seems to be in the middle of doing something, He is still, inviting us to stop from the chaos and focus on Christ. To meditate on Him.

To come to Him.

As we contemplate the Crucifixion, let us focus on Jesus and love Him all the more for what He has done for us.

And may we never be afraid to follow Him.

This blog is part of a blog series about meditations of the Rosary, in honor for October, which is the month dedicated to the Rosary! This artwork, as well as many others, are available in my book, The Sorrowful Mysteries, which allows you to pray the Rosary prayer by prayer, with each prayer illustrated with gorgeous religious art. If you would like to learn more about the books, click here

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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