Revisiting Calvary: Where the Crucifixion of Jesus Took Place

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As we get closer to the end of the season of Lent, we here at RAE are going back to the past to bring something new today. This article about will have 3 different videos to watch, and will also be supplemented with some data to read.

So kick up your feet as we journey to Calvary!

The Way to Calvary
The Way to Calvary

Most people are at least familiar with the story of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. After he was found guilty by the Jews and condemned under Governor Pontius Pilate, Jesus was made to haul the cross on which he was to be crucified on through the streets of Jerusalem to a mount just outside the city walls.

 

Calvary, also called Golgotha, was a site immediately outside Jerusalem’s walls and just north of Mount Zion according to the Gospels. Calvary as an English name for the place is derived from the Latin word for skull (calvaria or Calvariæ Locus), which is used in the Vulgate translation of “place of a skull”.

This explanation is given in all 4 Gospels of the Aramaic word Gûlgaltâ which was the name of the place where Jesus was crucified.

Calvary
Panoramic view of Calvary as seen today.

The text does not indicate why it was named Calvary or Golgotha, but there are 3 prominent theories. First is that as a place of public execution, Calvary may have been strewn with the skulls of abandoned victims.

This would be contrary to Jewish burial traditions, but not the Romans.

Second is that Calvary is named after a nearby cemetery which matches modern sites. Third is that the name was derived from the physical contour of its location meaning the mount appears to look like a skull.

https://youtu.be/PL-hSwWjSZw

(Crucifixion begins at 30:54)

The Gospels describe it as a place near enough to the city that those coming in and out could read the inscription Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. The location itself is mentioned in all 4 Gospels:

Matthew: And when they came to a place called Gol’gotha (which means the place of a skull).

Mark: And they brought him to the place called Gol’gotha (which means the place of a skull).

Luke: And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.

John: So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol’gotha.

https://youtu.be/uiZLQHyWWNo

The traditional location of Golgotha derives from its identification by Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, in 325 AD. A few yards nearby, Helena also identified the location of the Tomb of Jesus and claimed to have discovered the True Cross.

Constantine then built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre around the whole site. In 333 AD, the Pilgrim of Bordeaux wrote in the Itinerarium Burdigalense, entering from the east described the result:

On the left hand is the little hill of Golgotha where the Lord was crucified. About a stone’s throw from thence is a vault [crypta] wherein his body was laid, and rose again on the third day. There, at present, by the command of the Emperor Constantine, has been built a basilica; that is to say, a church of wondrous beauty.

Jerusalem is not in Europe so this may be passed our limits. There is a connection with the Roman Empire though, and Easter is almost upon us.

We hope you will join us again here at Rome Across Europe for more fun and exploration.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!Calvary Hill

References:

Ball, Warwick. Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire.

Chisholm, Hugh, ed. “Calvary”. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press, 1911.

Clermont-Ganneau, Charles. Archaeological researches in Palestine during the years 1873-1874.

Hunt, Emily Jane. Christianity in the second century: the case of Tatian. Psychology Press, 2003.

Lande, George M. Building Your Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary Learning Words by Frequency and Cognate. Resources for Biblical Study 41. Society of Biblical Literature, 2001. ISBN 1-58983-003-2.

Lehmann, Clayton Miles. “Palestine: History”. The On-line Encyclopedia of the Roman Provinces. The University of South Dakota, 22 February 2007.

Wilson, Charles W. Golgotha and The Holy Sepulchre, The Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1906.