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Flagellation of Christ

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Gotland-Dalhem-Kyrka Glasmalerei 07

German stained glass, ca 1240.

Cristo alla colonna, Chiesa Madre Solarino

Christ at the Column, Italian sculpture, 1817.

The Flagellation of Christ, sometimes known as Christ at the Column, is a scene from the Passion of Christ very frequently shown in Christian art, in cycles of the Passion or the larger subject of the Life of Christ. It is the fourth station of the modern alternate Stations of the Cross, and a Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. The column to which Christ is normally tied, and the rope, scourge, whip or birch[1] are elements in the Arma Christi — various places, including the Basilica di Santa Prassede in Rome, claimed to possess the original column.[2]


The event is mentioned in three of the four canonical Gospels (John 19:1, Mark 14:65 and Luke 23:63-65 but not in Matthew), and was the usual prelude to crucifixion under Roman law. In the Passion of Christ it precedes the Mocking of Christ and the Crowning with thorns.[3]

It first appears in art in the West in the 9th century. It is almost never found in Byzantine art, and remains very rare in Eastern Orthodox art at any date. Initially found in illuminated manuscripts 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 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.[4]

Pontius Pilate is sometimes shown watching the scene, and his wife's servant may approach him with her message, and in the later Middle Ages, probably under the influence of Passion plays, 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.[5] Sometimes another figure, who may be Herod, is present. The Flagellation was at the hands of those working for Pontius Pilate, but the floggers may sometimes wear Jewish hats,[6] Following the Maestá of Duccio,[7] the scene may take place in public, before an audience of the Jewish people.[8]

The Franciscans, 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.[3]

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 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.[9]

In modern times, filmmakers have depicted Christ being flogged as well. It is a significant scene in Mel Gibson's 2004 The Passion of the Christ. And in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, an imprisoned Alex DeLarge imagines himself as one of the Roman soldiers flogging Jesus.[10]

Notable examples

Single works:

In cycles:

Gallery of art


  1. Birches are mostly used north of the Alps.
  2. Which is still in situ photo
  3. 3.0 3.1 Schiller, 67
  4. Schiller, 66–67
  5. Schiller,68
  6. See for example Schiller fig. 231, a 13th century wall-painting from Cologne
  7. Commons image
  8. Schiller, 68
  9. Schiller, 69
  10. D.K. Holm (2004-02-04). "The Passion of the Christ". Nocturnal Admissions. Movie Poop Shoot. Retrieved November 6, 2009. 


Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Flagellation of Christ. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

  • Schiller, G. (1972). Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II. London: Lund Humphries. pp. pp. 66–69, figures 225–234 etc. ISBN 853313245. 

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