The Church of the Flagellation is located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem near St. Stephen’s Gate. It is along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows), the route that Jesus took bearing his cross as he made his way towards his crucifixion. The church is within the Franciscan Monastery complex together with the Church of Condemnation at the 2nd of 14 Stations of the Cross. Jesus stopped 14 times on route to Calvary. The 1st Station was where Jesus was judged and sentenced by Pontius Pilate and the 2nd Station is at the Church of Condemnation and alongside it the Church of the Flagellation where Christ was whipped by Roman soldiers. Although the Stations of the Cross cannot be historically proven they have their origins in the Bible and centuries of tradition as thousands of Christians have made a pilgrimage to these sites over the last 2,000 years.
Location of Christ’s Flagellation
The site of the 2nd Station of the Cross, the Church of Condemnation and the Church of the Flagellation were determined by Biblical descriptions and by the discovery of Roman flagstones beneath the adjacent churches and Convent of the Sisters of Zion. The paving (lithostratos) was described in the Bible as being outside the Antonia Fortress where Pontius Pilate judged and sentenced Jesus. However controversy surrounds the location and age of these stones which have been dated back to the 2nd century and not the 1st century. The 2nd century flagstones would have been part of a Forum built by Hadrian over a preexisting large pool or cistern (Struthion Pool) built by the Hasmoneans. This would mean that at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion this area was not paved and couldn’t be walked on. Further evidence shows that Roman historian Josephus wrote of judgments and floggings taking place on the other side of the city, on the western hill rather than at the traditional site of the flagellation. That said the site remains sacred and revered by Christians as a station along the Via Dolorosa.
History of the Church of the Flagellation
A Crusader church was built on this site in the 12th century but was later abandoned and stood in ruins for many centuries.
In 1342 the Franciscan Order were made the official custodians of the Holy sites in the Holy Land (Custodia Terroe Sanctoe).
In 1836 the ruling power in Jerusalem, Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt gave the site and its surrounding area to the Franciscans who established a Monastery Complex encompassing the site of the flagellation and of the condemnation of Christ; where Jesus had been flogged by Roman soldiers and condemned to crucifixion. In 1839 Duke Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria funded the construction of a chapel over the Holy site of the flagellation where the earlier Crusader shrine had stood. You can see a commemorative stone on the church façade giving thanks for Maximilian’s generous funding.
During the Ottoman era the area, including the remains of the church were used as stables and then as dwellings. In the 18th century the 14 Stations of the Cross were firmly established in their present locations. The existing chapel was renovated and redesigned by Antonio Barluzzi in 1927-29. The church remains under the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land which is entrusted with Christian religious sites.
The present church was designed by Antonio Barluzzi who also designed the Church of All Nations, Church of the Beatitudes on Mount of Beatitudes, Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives and many other religious buildings in the Holy Land. The church design was inspired by the church of 1839 and was completed in 1929.
Visitors enter the Franciscan Monastery complex and turn to their right towards the Church of the Flagellation. In the church courtyard are several archaeological findings on display. The façade appears quite plain at first glance but is in fact adorned with the figure of an angel above the entrance and a row of circular carvings along the edge of the roof. In each of these circles are carved symbols which include the cock which crowed at dawn, the Franciscan cross, whips, trumpets, tools and a crown of thorns.
The church is quite modest and has a single aisle. The church is noted for its beautiful stained glass windows on three sides around the altar. The windows feature scenes from the events which took place here. The first shows Pontius Pilate washing his hands; the second shows Jesus being whipped and the third stained glass window features Barabbas a condemned criminal being released in place of Jesus as part of Passover clemency. The stained glass windows were created by Duilio Cambellotti (1876-1960). Above the altar the ceiling is covered by a mosaic with a gold background depicting a large crown of thorns studded with stars. A floor mosaic in the center of the aisle records the date of construction, 1929; the Franciscan cross and the words “Custodia Francescana Terra Santa” – Custodians of the Holy Places. The church holds a painting by M. Barberis of Saint Paul’s imprisonment in the Antonia Fortress which stood nearby.
The Church of the Flagellation is open from 8am to 6pm (5pm in winter). For more information call 972 2 6270444.