Christ is stripped of his garments (John 19:23-24)

Christ is stripped of his garments (John 19:23-24)

The gospels tell us that the four Roman soldiers who crucified Christ took his clothes and then shared them out among themselves (Matthew 27:34-35; Mark 15:23-24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-25). Contrary to most representations, Christ was probably crucified naked. This would shed light on why Hebrews 12:2 says that he “endured the cross, disregarding its shame”.

Before stripping and crucifying Christ, the soldiers offered him a cup of sour wine called posca. This was a cheap, diluted wine that was part of their daily ration. The wine they offered was mixed with myrrh, which worked as a painkiller. However, when Christ had a sip, he refused to drink any more of it.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (shortly before he became Pope Benedict XVI) preached on the Stations of the Cross during Lent 2005. Commenting on the Tenth Station, he said: “At the foot of the Cross, the soldiers draw lots to divide his paltry possessions, his clothes. The Evangelists describe the scene with words drawn from Psalm 22:19; by doing so they tell us the same thing that Jesus would tell his disciples on the road to Emmaus: that everything takes place “according to the Scriptures”. Nothing is mere coincidence; everything that happens is contained in the Word of God and sustained by his divine plan.”

He also noted: “Let us not forget that John says that lots were drawn for Jesus’s tunic, “woven without seam from top to bottom” (John 19:23). We may consider this as a reference to the High Priest’s robe, which was “woven from a single thread”, without stitching (Fl. Josephus, a III, 161). For he, the Crucified One, is the true High Priest.”

This bronze low-relief of the Tenth Station is found within the Church of Our Lady of Czestochowa and St Casimir, in London. It forms part of a set that was made in London in 1945 by an exiled Polish artist, Joseph Henelt (1904-2007). Henelt taught at the School of Arts and Crafts in Krakow before the war, and had a special interest in sculpture.

The station pictures Christ being offered the cup of sour wine while his clothes are removed. In a nod to the Polish wartime context, the soldier is pictured wearing a German helmet, called the Stahlhelm. Henelt fought the Germans during the war; the relief may also contain a message about the Holocaust, in so far as it portrays a contemporary German soldier killing a Jewish man.

One of the other stations (included below) also pictures a German soldier nailing Christ to the cross. The series finds a parallel with the wooden Stations found at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Lampeter, which picture Hitler condemning Christ to death and hammering the nails into his hands.

See the full image:

Joseph Henelt / Christ is stripped of his garments / Bronze low-relief / 1945

And the other station picturing a German soldier:

Where to find this work of art
Our Lady of Czestochowa and St Casimir, Islington

Read the relevant passage
John 19:23-24

On a similar theme

  • From the Old Testament: After Adam and Eve fell, they went from being naked to clothed (Genesis 3:21). Christ undid their sin by going from being clothed to naked.
  • From the New Testament: In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the victim was also stripped of his clothes before being left for dead.

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