The barbaric crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ

Miguel Augusto

The Universal Church has now entered the Easter Triduum, the most dramatic days in the life of Jesus Christ and His followers. The depiction of the Passion of the Lord has lasted through the centuries, and in these days the faithful join in the Savior’s sufferings, with their eyes fixed on His glorious Resurrection. Various mystics and saints have had revelations of the Passion of Christ, among which one is Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich.

In the visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), a German Augustinian nun and mystic, we have a detailed account of the Lord’s Passion from the Last Supper to His glorious Resurrection. The visions of the Passion that she received are published in a book entitled The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ with ecclesiastical approval.Her descriptions were the source of inspiration for movie director Mel Gibson to produce and direct the movie The Passion of the Christ.

Of the entire Via Crucis, the most dramatic and barbaric moment is the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Catherine in her visions saw Jesus, the living image of pain, being stretched out by the executioners on the cross. And that He Himself sat upon it and they brutally laid Him on His back. She observed that seizing His right arm, they dragged it to the hole prepared for the nail. Having tied it tightly down with a cord; one of them knelt upon His sacred chest, a second held His hand flat, and a third taking a long thick nail, pressed it on the open palm. “That adorable hand, which had ever been open to bestow blessings and favours on the ungrateful Jews, and with a great iron hammer drove it through the flesh, and far into the wood of the cross. Our Lord uttered one deep but suppressed groan, and His blood gushed forth and sprinkled the arms of the archers. I counted the blows of the hammer, but my extreme grief made me forget their number. The Blessed Virgin stood motionless; from time to time you might distinguish her plaintive moans; she appeared as if almost fainting from grief, and Magdalen was quite beside herself,” describes Catherine Emmerich.

After they had nailed Our Lord’s right hand, Catherine saw that the executioners perceived that His left hand did not reach the hole they had bored to receive the nail, therefore they tied ropes to His left arm, and having steadied their feet against the cross, pulled the left hand violently until it reached the place prepared for it. This dreadful process caused Our Lord indescribable agony, His breast heaved, and His legs were quite contracted. Catherine then saw the executioners knelt upon Him, tied down His arms, and drove the second nail into His left hand; His blood flowed afresh, and His feeble groans were once more heard between the blows of the hammer. The Lord’s arms were spread so wide that they formed a straight line.

At the foot of the cross, Emmerich saw the Blessed Virgin who felt each additional torture and insult inflicted on Our Lord, causing a fresh pang each time in the Blessed Mother’s heart – “She became white as a corpse.”

From among the various descriptions given by Blessed Anne Emmerich, she noted a piece of wood on the lower part of the cross, under which the feet of Jesus would be nailed. This was so that the weight of His body might not rest upon the wounds of His hands, as also to prevent the bones of His feet from being broken when nailed to the cross. In the vision, Catherine saw the whole body of our Lord had been dragged upward and was constricted by the violent manner with which the executioners had stretched out His arms. His knees were bent, but soon perceiving that His feet did not reach the bit of wood which was positioned for them to rest upon, they became infuriated – “They made a horrible mockery of Jesus: ‘He will not stretch himself out, but we will help him’; they accompanied these words with the most fearful oaths and imprecations, and having fastened a rope to His right leg, dragged it violently until it reached the wood, and then tied it down as tightly as possible. The agony which Jesus suffered from this violent tension was indescribable; the words ‘My God, my God,’ escaped His lips, and the executioners increased His pain by tying His chest and arms to the cross, lest the hands should be torn from the nails.”

Blessed Catherine saw that they fastened His left foot on to His right foot, having first bored a hole through them with a species of piercer, because they could not be placed in such a position as to be nailed together at once. Next, they took a very long nail – the most vile of all, Catherine points out – and drove it completely through both feet into the cross below, which operation was more than usually painful, on account of His body being so unnaturally stretched out. Emmerich records having counted at least thirty-six blows of the hammer. She heard voices around – dark and sinister – which uttered insults and curses.

At this moment, the Blessed Virgin Mary before the body of her adored Son, the sound of the hammering and the groans of Jesus, Catherine describes, “they caused her such vehement pain and compassion, that she fell back into the arms of her companions, which caused a gathering of the people… During the crucifixion and the raising of the cross that followed it, cries of compassion were heard, especially among the women, such as: ‘Why doesn’t the earth swallow up these wretches? Why doesn’t fire fall from heaven to devour them?’ The executioners responded to these expressions of love with insults and scorn.”

On the threshold of His strength, in the face of all the brutality inflicted upon Him, Catherine saw the Lord during the entire time of the crucifixion, never ceased praying, and repeating those passages in the Psalms which He was fulfilling, although from time to time, a feeble moan caused by excess of suffering might be heard. During the horrible torturous execution of Jesus, Emmerich saw weeping Angels who appeared above Him.

When the crucifixion of Jesus was finished, Blessed Catherine accounts that the commander of the Roman soldiers ordered Pilate’s inscription to be nailed on the top of the cross. The Pharisees were much incensed at this, and their anger was increased by the jeers of the Roman soldiers, who pointed at their crucified king.

The end hour when the Lamb of God was immolated on the wood of the cross, according to Catherine’s vision, by the position of the sun, she could tell it was about a quarter past twelve – “At the moment the cross was lifted up, the Temple resounded with the blast of trumpets, which were always blown to announce the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb.”

Catherine Emmerich stresses that Jesus, throughout His Passion, until His death, did not cease praying, and thus fulfilled the prophecies that referred to Him.

NOTE: The quotes from the book are taken from the website of the “Santa Rosa de Lima” Community and

(Image: Chapel of Saint Joseph University, Macau. Photo: Miguel Augusto)