Seeing the prison where Jesus was held prior to his sentencing by Pontius Pilate was deafening. It was quiet as our small archaeology class of twelve descended the steps into this dark, dreary room. No one spoke. The place, called the Pratorium, is an underground prison carved into the bedrock of Jerusalem. In this dungy, dirty prison which was originally lit by torches without running water or toilet facilities, condemned prisoners were held waiting for their execution. Our professor was demonstrating where chains were bolted into the rock wall that were fastened to the prisoners’ arms by shackles. If you look carefully, you can see a narrow bench carved into the wall where they rested. The prison held no more than six to eight people. It wasn’t necessary to have a larger Roman prison because judgment and execution was swift and fast. The Pratorium would have been shared simultaneously with Barabbas who was released in lieu of Jesus.
This dark cubby hole was where the shame and embarrassment began on His journey to the cross. How grateful I am to stand there and on the inside I’m pondering the price he paid for me. I felt unworthy, yet I didn’t want to leave. Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, was clothed in a purple robe wearing a crown of thorns when Pilate presented Him to the Jews and exclaimed: “Behold the man! See John 19:5. A church now stands over the Pratorium which is named “Ecco Homo” which is Latin for ‘Behold the Man’.
Notice the last photo. This was taken at the spot that some say was the place that soldiers gambled for the Lord’s clothing. The dice game board is carved into the stone floor which dates back to the first century. Whether or not this was the exact game board that the soldiers used to gamble for Jesus’ robe, has yet to be proven; however, it would have been a game similar to this that they used for the wager.
Photo 1: Staircase in church down to lower level where Pratorium is located
Photo 2: Illustration of bench where prisoners sat hooked up to chains awaiting their trial.
Photo 3: Dice game embedded on the floor
Ginger is hosting Spiritual Sunday today. You are invited to visit for special encouragement.