Ecce homo

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Ecce homo ("behold the man", Ecclesiastical Latin: [ˈɛttʃɛ ˈɔmo], Classical Latin: [ˈɛkkɛ ˈhɔmoː]) are the Latin words used by Pontius Pilate in the Vulgate translation of the Gospel of John, when he presents a scourged Jesus Christ, bound and crowned with thorns, to a hostile crowd shortly before his Crucifixion. The original New Testament Greek: "ἰδοὺ ὁ ἄνθρωπος", translit. "idoù ho ánthropos", render the most English Bible translations, e.g. Douay-Rheims Bible and King James Version, as "behold the man".[a] The scene has been widely depicted in Christian art.

Artistic subject[edit]

A scene of the Ecce Homo is a standard component of cycles illustrating the Passion and Life of Christ in art. It follows the Flagellation of Christ, the Crowning with thorns and the Mocking of Christ, the last two often being combined:[b] The usual depiction shows Pilate and Christ, the mocking crowd and parts of the city of Jerusalem.

But, from the 15th century, 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. 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 Sorrow(s) (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]


The first depictions of the ecce homo scene in the arts appear in the 9th and 10th centuries in the Syrian-Byzantine culture.[d]

In Eastern Christianity this type of Icon is generally known by a different title: ″Jesus Christ the Bridegroom″ (Byzantine Greek: Ιηϲοῦϲ Χριστόϲ ὁ Νυμφίος, translit. Iesoũs Christós ho Nymphíos). It is derived from the words in New Testament Greek: "ἰδοὺ ὁ νυμφίος", translit. "idoù ho nymphíos", spoken by Jesus Christ himself in his Parable of the Ten Virgins according to the Gospel of Matthew.[a]

It presents the bridegroom as a suffering Christ, mocked and humiliated by Pontius Pilate's soldiers.[b]

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".[3] 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, is chanted the troparion Behold the Bridegroom Cometh at Midnight (Byzantine Greek: Ἰδού ὁ Νυμφίος ἔρχεται ἐν τῷ μέσῳ τῆς νυκτός, translit. idoú ho nymphíos érchetai en tõ méso tẽs nuktós).[4]

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":[e]

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[6]

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.[7]

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 [de] of Albrecht Dürer or the chalcographies [de] 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.[8] 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 [de] 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 1944–1950, 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.[9] The original can be viewed in the Ecce Homo Sanctuary of the Albertine Sisters in Kraków.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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.

Criticism of Christianity[edit]

Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is is Friedrich Nietzsche's "final autobiographical statement".[f]


The TV sitcom Mr. Bean has a choral theme tune known as Ecce Homo.[g]

The Ecce Mono (Latin / Artificial for "Behold the monkey") resulted from an accidental damage of art.[h]



  1. ^ a b John19:5: ἰδοὺ ὁ ἄνθρωπος, idoù ho ánthropos (NA28), ecce homo (NVUL), 'behold the man'. Similar:
    Matthew25:6: ἰδοὺ ὁ νυμφίος, idoù ho nymphíos (NA28), ecce sponsus (NVUL), 'behold the bridegroom'.
  2. ^ a b c Matthew27:27–31: […] ἐνέπαιξαν αὐτῷ, enépaizan autõ (NA28), illudebant ei (NVUL), '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 a 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."[1]
  3. ^ ΙϹ ΧϹ [abbr. for ΙηϲοῦϹ ΧριστόϹ] ὁ νυμφίοϲ, IesoũS CHristóS ho nymphíos, 'Jesus Christ the bridegroom'.
  4. ^ 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."[2]
  5. ^ Matthew9:15; 25:1–13; Luke12:35–36. "[T]he Church is presented as His wife and bride": Ephesians5:24–27; Revelation21:9.[5]
  6. ^ "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'.[13]
  7. ^ Whose opening reads as follows: "Ecce homo qui est faba" (Latin for "Behold the man who is a bean").
  8. ^ An Ecce Homo fresco in the town of Borja, Spain, by 19th / 20th-century Spanish painter Elías García Martínez gained notoriety in August 2012 when a woman named Cecilia Giménez took it upon herself to restore it without any training or expertise, resulting in Jesus looking like "a very hairy monkey".[14][15] The "monkey Christ" painting has become a tourist attraction and destination, as well as the basis of a popular internet meme. So many people were flocking to see the painting that the town started charging an admission fee, which has raised more than 50,000 euros (£43,000) for charity as of mid August 2013.[16]


  1. ^ Dreher, Rod (2017) [2015]. "The Lesson of the Reed". How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem. New York, NY: Regan Arts. p. 187. ISBN 978-1-68245-073-4.
  2. ^ Alfeyev, Hilarion (August 1995). "Prayer in St Isaac of Nineveh". Department for External Church Relations. Moscow Patriarchate. Archived from the original on 1 November 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  3. ^ Slobodskoy, Serafim Alexivich (1992). "The Order of Divine Services". The Law of God. Translated by Price, Susan. Holy Trinity Monastery (Jordanville, New York). ISBN 978-0-88465-044-7. Archived from the original on 18 August 2018. Retrieved 20 March 2019. Original: Слободской, Серафим Алексеевич (1957). "О порядке церковных Богослужений" [The Order of Divine Services]. Закон Божий [The Law of God]. Православная энциклопедия Азбука веры | православный сайт (in Russian) (published 1966). Archived from the original on 25 July 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  4. ^ Slobodskoy, Serafim Alexivich (1992). "The Sundays of Lent". The Law of God. Translated by Price, Susan. Holy Trinity Monastery (Jordanville, New York). ISBN 978-0-88465-044-7. Archived from the original on 12 August 2018. Retrieved 20 March 2019. Original: Слободской, Серафим Алексеевич (1957). "Недели Великого Поста" [The Sundays of Lent]. Закон Божий [The Law of God]. Православная энциклопедия Азбука веры | православный сайт (in Russian) (published 1966). Archived from the original on 25 July 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church". Department for External Church Relations. Moscow Patriarchate. Archived from the original on 24 July 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  6. ^ Alfeyev, Hilarion (5 March 2007). "The Passion according to St Matthew. Libretto". Department for External Church Relations. Moscow Patriarchate. Archived from the original on 27 August 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  7. ^ Schiller, Gertrud (1972). Iconography of Christian Art: The passion of Jesus Christ. 2. London: Lund Humphries. pp.74–75; figs. 236, 240, 256–273. ISBN 0-85331-324-5. Original: Ikonographie der christlichen Kunst: Die Passion Jesu Christi [Iconography of Christian Art: The passion of Jesus Christ] (in German). 2 (2 ed.). Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn. 1983. ISBN 3-579-04136-3.
  8. ^ Krén, Emil; Marx, Daniel. "Ecce Homo by BOSCH, Hieronymus". Web Gallery of Art. Archived from the original on 4 November 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  9. ^ Wójtowicz, Marek (3 May 2011) [29 April 2011]. "Papież nowej ewangelizacji" (in Polish). Archived from the original on 10 July 2017. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  10. ^ Media related to File:Church of Saint Albert Chmielowski (Ecce Homo Sanctuary) in Cracow, Poland.jpg at Wikimedia Commons.
  11. ^ "Adam Chmielowski Brat Albert: Leon Wyczółkowski" (in Polish). Illustrated by Leon Wyczółkowski. Muzeum Okręgowe w Bydgoszczy im. Leona Wyczółkowskiego. Archived from the original on 12 March 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  12. ^ Grosz, George (2011) [1922–1923, reproduced drawings and watercolors executed 1915-1922]. Ecce Homo. rororo 25684 (reprint ed.). Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag. ISBN 978-3-499-25684-4.
  13. ^ Wicks, Robert J. (8 May 2017). "Nietzsche's Life and Works". In Zalta, Edward N. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  14. ^ "Spanish fresco restoration botched by amateur". BBC News. 23 August 2012. Archived from the original on 20 November 2018. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  15. ^ Neild, Barry (20 September 2012). "Ecce Homo 'restorer' wants a slice of the royalties | Cecilia Giménez, who made a painting of Jesus look like a very hairy monkey, wants economic compensation". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 June 2018. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  16. ^ Thomas, Emily (14 August 2013). "Monkey Christ fresco boosts tourism". BBC News. Archived from the original on 11 October 2018. Retrieved 18 March 2019.