The scourging of Christ before his crucifixion is mentioned matter-of-factly in three of the gospels (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; John 19:1-3), although it’s not described in any detail. These brief references to the scourging, however, don’t take away from the fact that it was a terrible punishment that would have left Christ in a critical condition.
Following Roman custom, Christ would probably have been stripped, tied to a pillar and then flogged repeatedly. The gospels do not tell us for how long he was punished, by how many people or exactly with what. Often, however, a torturer would use a flagellum, a leather whip containing pieces of metal or bone. In any case, the scourging would have left him with life-threatening wounds.
A closer look at the gospels reveals that Christ was fully expecting this punishment. One day, he took the twelve apostles to one side and told them that he would be condemned to death, then handed over to foreigners “to be mocked and flogged and crucified.” (Matthew 20:17-19; Luke 18:30-33). In keeping with this, it would have been Roman soldiers, on the orders of Pontius Pilate, who scourged him.
The flagellation of Christ before his execution has been a popular subject in the history of art. This is partly because of the event’s inclusion in the devotion of the Rosary. The Scourging at the Pillar became the second ‘Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary’, encouraging Catholics to meditate on the episode in prayer.
This stained glass image of the scourging is found within St Mary’s, Woolhampton. It focuses on the sorrow of Christ as he is scourged by the soldiers with a variety of whips. The style is Gothic Revival, but the artist and date are unclear. It may be by William Wailes, who created the East Window within the church.
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Where to find this work of art
St Mary’s, Woolhampton
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