Jump to content

Ecce homo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Ecce Homo)
Ecce Homo, Caravaggio, 1605

Ecce homo (/ˈɛksi ˈhm/, Ecclesiastical Latin: [ˈettʃe ˈomo], Classical Latin: [ˈɛkkɛ ˈhɔmoː]; "behold the man") are the Latin words used by Pontius Pilate in the Vulgate translation of the Gospel of John, when he presents a scourged Jesus, bound and crowned with thorns, to a hostile crowd shortly before His crucifixion (John 19:5). The original New Testament Greek: "ἰδοὺ ὁ ἄνθρωπος", romanized: "idoù ho ánthropos", is rendered by most English Bible translations, e.g. the Douay-Rheims Bible and the King James Version, as "behold the man".[a] The scene has been widely depicted in Christian art.

Version by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch, 1490s

A scene of the ecce homo is a standard component of cycles illustrating the Passion and life of Christ in art. It follows the stories of the Flagellation of Christ, the crowning with thorns and the mocking of Jesus, the last two often being combined:[b] The usual depiction shows Pilate and Jesus, a mocking crowd which may be rather large, and parts of the city of Jerusalem.

But, from the 15th century in the West, and much earlier in the art of the Eastern church, devotional pictures began to portray Jesus alone, in half or full figure with a purple robe, loincloth, crown of thorns and torture wounds, especially on his head, and later became referred to as images of the Ecce homo. Similar subjects but with the wounds of the crucifixion visible (Nail wounds on the limbs, spear wounds on the sides), are termed a Man of Sorrows (also Misericordia). If the instruments of the Passion are present, it may be called an Arma Christi. If Christ is sitting down (usually supporting himself with his hand on his thigh), it may be referred to it as Christ at rest or Pensive Christ. It is not always possible to distinguish these subjects.

Eastern Christianity[edit]

Narrative scenes of the biblical moment are almost never shown in Eastern art, but icons of the single figure of the tortured Christ go back over a millennium, and have sometimes been called Ecce homo images by later sources. The first depictions of the ecce homo scene in the arts appear in the 9th and 10th centuries in the Syrian-Byzantine culture of the Antiochian Greek Christians.[g]

Eastern Orthodox tradition generally refers to this type of icon by a different title:[h]Jesus Christ the Bridegroom″ (Byzantine Greek: Ιηϲοῦϲ Χριστόϲ ὁ Νυμφίος, romanizedIesoũs Christós ho Nymphíos).[i] It derives from the words in New Testament Greek: "ἰδοὺ ὁ νυμφίος", romanized: "idoù ho nymphíos", by which Jesus Christ reveals himself, in his Parable of the Ten Virgins according to the Gospel of Matthew,[a] as the bearer of the most high joy.[j]

Ecce Homo, Andrea Mantegna, 1500

The icon presents the bridegroom as a suffering Christ, mocked and humiliated by Pontius Pilate's soldiers before his crucifixion.[b][i]

The daily Midnight Office summons the faithful to be ready at all times for the day of the Dread Judgement, which will come unexpectedly like "a bridegroom in the night".[k] On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the first three days of Passion Week, the last week before Pascha, consecrated to the commemoration of the last days of the earthly life of the Saviour, the troparion is chanted: "Behold the Bridegroom Cometh at Midnight" (Byzantine Greek: Ἰδού ὁ Νυμφίος ἔρχεται ἐν τῷ μέσῳ τῆς νυκτός, romanizedidoú ho nymphíos érchetai en tõ méso tẽs nuktós).[f][l]

A Passion Play, presented in Moscow (27 March 2007) and in Rome (29 March 2007), recalls the words, with which "in Holy Scriptures Christ describes Himself as a bridegroom":[m]

The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection.

— Hilarion Alfeyev, The Passion according to St. Matthew[18]

Western Christianity[edit]

Ecce Homo by Titian, between c. 1570 and c. 1576

Depictions of Western Christianity in the Middle Ages, e.g. the Egbert Codex and the Codex Aureus Epternacensis, seem to depict the ecce homo scene (and are usually interpreted as such), but more often than not only show the Crowning of thorns and the Mocking of Christ,[b] which precede the actual ecce homo scene in the Bible. The independent image only developed around 1400, probably in Burgundy, but then rapidly became extremely popular, especially in Northern Europe.[19]

Ecce Homo and Mater Dolorosa Diptych, c. 1491–1520. Aelbrecht Bouts

The motif found increasing currency as the Passion became a central theme in Western piety in the 15th and 16th centuries. The ecce homo theme was included not only in the passion plays of medieval theatre, but also in cycles of illustrations of the story of the Passion, as in the Great Passion of Albrecht Dürer or the engravings of Martin Schongauer. The scene was (especially in France) often depicted as a sculpture or group of sculptures; even altarpieces and other paintings with the motif were produced (e.g. by Hieronymus Bosch or Hans Holbein). Like the passion plays, the visual depictions of the ecce homo scene, it has been argued, often, and increasingly, portray the people of Jerusalem in a highly critical light, bordering perhaps on antisemitic caricatures. Equally, this style of art has been read as a kind of simplistic externalisation of the inner hatred of the angry crowd towards Jesus, not necessarily implying any racial judgment.

The motif of the lone figure of a suffering Christ who seems to be staring directly at the observer, enabling him/her to personally identify with the events of the Passion, arose in the late Middle Ages. At the same time similar motifs of the Man of Sorrow and Christ at rest increased in importance. The subject was used repeatedly in later so-called old master prints (e.g. by Jacques Callot and Rembrandt), in the paintings of the Renaissance and the Baroque, as well as in Baroque sculptures.

Hieronymus Bosch painted his first Ecce Homo during the 1470s.[20] He returned to the subject in 1490 to paint in a characteristically Netherlandish style, with deep perspective and a surreal ghostly image of praying monks in the lower left-hand corner.

In 1498, Albrecht Dürer depicted the suffering of Christ in the ecce homo of his Great Passion in unusually close relation with his self-portrait, leading to a reinterpretation of the motif as a metaphor for the suffering of the artist. James Ensor used the ecce homo motif in his ironic painting Christ and the Critics (1891), in which he portrayed himself as Christ.

Antonio Ciseri's 1871 Ecce Homo portrayal presents a semi-photographic view of a balcony seen from behind the central figures of a scourged Christ and Pilate (whose face is not visible). The crowd forms a distant mass, almost without individuality, and much of the detailed focus is on the normally secondary figures of Pilate's aides, guards, secretary and wife.

Ecce Homo by Mihály Munkácsy, 1896

One of the more famous modern versions of the ecce homo motif was that by the Polish artist Adam Chmielowski, who went on to found, as Brother Albert, the Albertine Brothers (CSAPU) and, a year later, the Albertine Sisters (CSAPI), eventually becoming proclaimed a saint on 12 November 1989 by Pope John Paul II, the author of Our God's Brother [pl], a play about Chmielowski, written between 1944 and 1950, when the future Pontiff and later himself a saint was a young priest. Chmielowski's Ecce Homo [pl] (146 cm x 96.5 cm, unsigned, painted between 1879 and 1881), was significant in Chmielowski's life, as it is in Act 1 of Wojtyła's play. Pope John Paul II is said to have kept a copy of this painting in his apartment at the Vatican.[21] The original can be viewed in the Ecce Homo Sanctuary of the Albertine Sisters in Kraków.[22] It was painted at a time when the painter was going through an inner struggle, trying to decide whether to remain an artist, or to give up painting to pursue the calling to minister to the poor.[23]

Especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, the meaning of ecce homo motif has been extended to the portrayal of suffering and the degradation of humans through violence and war. Notable 20th-century depictions are George Grosz's (1922–1923) and Lovis Corinth's Ecce Homo (1925). The 84 drawings and 16 watercolors of Grosz criticize the socio-political conditions of the Weimar Republic.[24] Corinth shows, from the perspective of the crowd, Jesus, a soldier, and Pilate dressed as a physician. Following the Holocaust of World War II, Otto Dix portrayed himself, in Ecce Homo with self-likeness behind barbed wire (1948), as the suffering Christ in a concentration camp.


These are images of the narrative type, with other figures, rather than the devotional Man of Sorrows type.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Хальфан 2009; Rotem 2018.
  2. ^ Dreher 2017, p. 187.
  3. ^ Alfeyev 1995.
  4. ^ "Holy Week: An Explanation". Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Archived from the original on 10 August 2018. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  5. ^ Basil Essey 2008.
  6. ^ Official account on Facebook
  7. ^ Christus der Bräutigam 2018; Christus der Bräutigam 2018b; Gemeinde Wien 2019.
  8. ^ Slobodskoy 1967, "Short Prayers: Another Prayer to the Lord Jesus" - Archived 7 August 2018 at the Wayback Machine; Слободской 1967, "Kratkiye molitvy: Yeshche odna molitva Gospodu Iisusu - Краткие молитвы: Еще одна молитва Господу Иисусу" -Archived 27 August 2018 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ The Way Home 2008; Дорога домой 2008.
  10. ^ John El Massih 2017; Christ the Bridegroom Monastery 2009.
  11. ^ ها هو ذا الختن on YouTube
  12. ^ "Ide ho Ánthropos" ΊΔΕ Ό ἌΝΘΡΩΠΟϹ [Behold the Man] (JPEG image). Orthodox Church in America. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  13. ^ Alexandre (Semenoff-Tian-Chansky) 1984.
  14. ^ Slobodskoy 1967, "The Order of Divine Services: The Daily Cycle of Divine Services". Archived 8 June 2017 at the Wayback Machine; Слободской 1967, "O poryadke tserkovnykh Bogosluzheniy: Sutochnyy krug Bogosluzheniy" О порядке церковных Богослужений: Суточный круг Богослужений. Archived 7 August 2018 at the Wayback Machine.[e]
  15. ^ Slobodskoy 1967, "The Sundays of Lent: Passion Week". Archived 8 June 2017 at the Wayback Machine; Слободской 1967, "Nedeli Velikogo Posta: Strastnaya sedmitsa" Недели Великого Поста: Страстная седмица. Archived 6 August 2018 at the Wayback Machine.[e]
  16. ^ Russian chant 2010.
  17. ^ Bases of the Social Concept 2000.
  18. ^ Alfeyev 2007.
  19. ^ Schiller 1972, pp. 74–75, figs. 236, 240, 256–273.
  20. ^ Krén & Marx.
  21. ^ Wójtowicz 2011.
  22. ^ Media related to File:Church of Saint Albert Chmielowski (Ecce Homo Sanctuary) in Cracow, Poland.jpg at Wikimedia Commons.
  23. ^ Wyczółkowski 1880.
  24. ^ Grosz 2011.
  25. ^ Christ the Bridegroom Monastery 2009.
  26. ^ Wicks 2017.


  1. ^ a b John19:5: ἰδοὺ ὁ ἄνθρωπος, romanized: idoú ho ánthropos (NA28), ecce homo (NVUL), lit.'behold the man'. Similar:
    Matthew25:6: ἰδοὺ ὁ νυμφίος, romanized: idoù ho nymphíos (NA28), ecce sponsus (NVUL), lit.'behold the bridegroom'.[1]
  2. ^ a b c Matthew27:27–31: […]ἐνέπαιξαν αὐτῷ, romanized: enépaizan autõ (NA28), illudebant ei (NVUL), lit.'they mocked him'[…]. — "The reed is a Christian symbol of humility […]. After whipping Christ and crowning him with thorns, the Roman soldiers gave Christ a reed as pathetic scepter for a mock ruler. In Christian iconography, the reed is a sign of Jesus's willingness to suffer humiliation to fulfill the will of his Father. […] [T]he humility is the absolute requirement for advancement in the spiritual life."[2]
  3. ^ "'…the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. (Acts11:26)'"
  4. ^ "At the first service of Palm Sunday evening, the priest carries the icon of Christ the Bridegroom in procession, and we sing the 'Hymn of the Bridegroom'. We behold Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, bearing the marks of His suffering, yet preparing a marriage Feast for us in God's Kingdom. […] The Parable of the Ten Virgins is read on Holy Tuesday. […] The theme of the day is reinforced by the expostelarion hymn we sing:"[4][5]

    I behold Thy bridal chamber
    richly adorned,
    O my Savior;
    but I have no wedding garment
    to worthily enter.
    Make radiant
    the garment of my soul,
    O Giver of Light,
    and save me.

  5. ^ a b c Internet edition at Dorogadomoj.com.
  6. ^ a b "Realizing our sinfulness and not relying on the power of our own prayers, in this prayer we ask […] the Mother of God, Who has special grace to save us sinners by Her intercession for us before Her Son, to pray for us sinners before our Saviour." (Russian: "Сознавая свою греховность и не надеясь на силу молитв своих, мы в этой молитве просим помолиться о нас грешных, пред Спасителем нашим, […] Божию Матерь, имеющую особенную благодать спасать нас грешных Своим заступничеством за нас перед Сыном Своим.")[8].[e][9]
  7. ^ The Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Syria is not to be confused with Syriac Christianity: "The Syrian Church has never had its own tradition of icon-painting. […] As to the non-Chalcedonian Orient, in particular the Church of Syria, icons did not find much acceptance there, and the churches were adorned with ornaments rather than icons."[3]
    Antiochian representatives:[c]
    • "Official motto" (JPEG image). The Antiochian Diocese of Los Angeles and the West. Archived from the original on 24 February 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
    • "Christ the Bridegroom" (JPEG image). The Antiochian Diocese of Los Angeles and the West. Archived from the original on 11 June 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2019.[d]
    • "Das Bräutigam-Gebet" -"The Bridegroom Prayer" on Facebook (Video). 2 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2019.[6] Arabic: بطريركية أنطاكية وسائر المشرق للروم الأرثوذكس | كنيسة الروم الأرثوذكس في فيينا - النمسا, romanizedbitrirkiat 'antakiat wasayir almashriq lilruwm al'arthudhikus | kanisat alruwm al'arthudhikus fi fiyinna – alnamsa. German: Griechisch-Orthodoxes Patriarchat von Antiochien und dem gesamten Morgenland Griechisch-orthodoxe Kirche in Wien – Österreich, lit.'Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East Greek Orthodox Church in Vienna – Austria.'[7][f]

      Behold, the Bridegroom cometh at midnight,
      ها هوذا الختن يأتي في نصف الليل
      and blessed is the servant
      فطوبى للعبد
      whom he shall find awake.
      الذي يجده مستيقظا،
      But he whom he shall find neglectful
      أما الذي يجده متغافلا فهو
      is verily unworthy.
      Behold, therefore, O my soul, beware,
      فانظري يا نفسي
      lest thou fallest in deep slumber,
      ألا تستغرقي في النوم
      and the door of the kingdom
      ويغلق عليك خارج
      be closed against thee,
      and thou be delivered to death.
      وتسلمي إلى الموت،
      But be thou wakeful, crying:
      بل كوني منتبهة صارخة :
      Holy, holy, holy art thou, O God.
      قدوس قدوس قدوس أنت يا الله،
      Through the intercessions of the Theotokos,
      من أجل والدة الإله
      have mercy on us.

    Cf. Isaiah6:3: "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory", Revelation4:8: "Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come", Trisagion, and Jesus Prayer.
  8. ^ Even if the icon inscription is Behold the Man.[12]
  9. ^ a b c "The icon of Christ the Bridegroom portrays the selfless love for Christ's Bride, the Church (Isaiah54). He is dressed in royal colors as the betrothed King, complying with Sacred Scripture's account of His mockery by the Roman guards before His crucifixion. The crown is a symbol of His marriage to the Church; the rope, a symbol of bondage to sin, death and corruption which Jesus untied by His death on the Cross; the reed, a symbol of His humility."[25]
  10. ^ Russian: "Христос открывает Себя Носителем высшей радости", romanizedKhristos otkryvayet Sebya Nositelem vysshey radosti, lit.'Christ reveals Himself as the Bearer of the highest joy'.[13]
  11. ^ Church Slavonic: "'жених в полунощи'", romanized: zhenikh v polunoshchi, lit.'the bridegroom at midnight'.[14]
  12. ^ Church Slavonic: "'Се Жених грядет в полунощи'", romanized: Se Zhenikh gryadet v polunoshchi, lit.'Behold the Bridegroom comes at midnight'.[15] "During Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, we celebrate Bridegroom Matins. We sing: 'Behold, the Bridegroom is coming'".[16]
  13. ^ Matthew9:15; 25:1–13; Mark2:19; Luke5:34–35, 12:35–36. "[T]he Church is presented as His wife and bride": John2:9–10, 3:29, Ephesians5:24–27; Revelation21:9.[17]
  14. ^ Inscription: ΙϹ ΧϹ [abbr. for ΙηϲοῦϹ ΧριστόϹ] ὁ νυμφίοϲ, romanizedIesoũS CHristóS ho nymphíos, lit.'Jesus Christ the bridegroom'. — An icon, on the apex of the Rock of Calvary inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, under the Greek Orthodox altar of the crucifixion (12thStation of the Via Dolorosa).[1]
  15. ^ "[F]inal autobiographical statement" by Friedrich Nietzsche. "He begins this fateful intellectual autobiography—he was to lose his mind little more than a month later—with three eyebrow-raising sections entitled, 'Why I Am So Wise', 'Why I Am So Clever', and 'Why I Write Such Good Books'."[26]
  16. ^ Ecce homo qui est faba (Latin for 'Behold the man who is a bean'). Choral theme tune of the TV sitcom Mr. Bean.
  17. ^ Macaronic Latin/Ecce Mono (Spanish for 'Behold the monkey'). Exemplary of an accidental damage of art.

Further reading[edit]

  • Baxter, Roger (1823). "Behold the Man" . Meditations For Every Day In The Year. New York: Benziger Brothers.
  • Prezzia, Paul Joseph (18 April 2019). "Glory to You, Love: Puccini's Turandot and the Triduum". Crisis Magazine. The Civilized Reader column, with reference to Genesis 2:24 and Song of Solomon 4:1. Archived from the original on 18 April 2019. Retrieved 19 February 2019. Christ speaks to us hardhearted men and women with these words: 'How beautiful art thou, my love, how beautiful art thou!' (Song of Solomon 4:1) Beauty, in physical terms, is the way the heavenly bridegroom speaks of love. And if Christ seeks us for the beauty He Himself created in us, and in spite of our cold hearts, He is under the obligation set for suitors in Sacred Scripture: 'A man shall leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife.' (Genesis 2:24)