The Holy Stairs Jesus ‘climbed before being sentenced to crucifixion’ are unveiled after 300 years as pilgrims flock to see marble steps ‘stained with Christ’s blood’
- Scala Sancta, or the Holy Staircase, had been encased in protective maple wood in Rome, Italy, since 1723
- The marble was covered 300 years ago on the orders of pope Innocent XIII due to high volumes of pilgrims
- The 28 steps were believed to be part of Pontius Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem before they were moved to Rome
Published: 08:01 EDT, 12 April 2019 | Updated: 16:56 EDT, 12 April 2019
The marble steps Jesus is believed to have climbed before being sentenced to crucifixion have been unveiled after 300 years.
The Scala Sancta, or Holy Staircase, had been encased in protective maple wood since 1723 in a bid to protect the steps from years of use.
But it has since been stripped back and restored with pilgrims now flocking to see the sacred steps. Three small bronze crosses are embedded in the marble and there are spots some believe are stained by Christ’s blood.
Faithful kneel on the newly restored Holy Stairs (Scala Sancta), which according to Catholic Church is the stair on which Jesus Christ stepped leading on his way to the crucifixion
The marble was covered some 300 years ago on the orders of pope Innocent XIII amid fears it was getting worn down by the hands and knees of worshipers, who caused a dip in the stone of 15cm in some parts.
The 28 steps were believed to be part of Pontius Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem and were moved to Rome in the fourth century AD by Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Now, after a year-long restoration, the staircase has been opened to pilgrims. It will stay open to the public for 60 days, covering the Easter period, ending on June 9.
The steps are now housed in an old papal palace in St. John’s Square in southeast Rome, across from the Basilica of St. John the Lateran.
There was unveiling ceremony yesterday marked by the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Angelo De Donatis, kneeling as he inaugurated the restored Holy Stairs.
Three small bronze crosses are embedded in the marble and there are spots some believe are stained by Christ’s blood
The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Angelo De Donatis, blesses the restored Holy Stairs in Rome
DID JESUS REALLY WALK ROME’S ‘HOLY STAIRCASE’?
Helena (St. Helena, St. Helen, pictured) is credited with discovering the ‘True Cross’ – upon which Jesus was crucified – after it was hidden in Jerusalem, and moving the Scala Sancta to Rome
A marble staircase known as the Scala Sancta – the Holy Staircase – is believed to be the site where Jesus walked right before he was sentenced to crucifixion.
While much of the story comes from tradition, historians have long been working to piece together evidence of the actual events that unfolded.
The 28 marble steps are said to have originated in Jerusalem, where they led to the Pretorium of Pilate.
‘According to tradition, the steps were those Jesus climbed during the evening of his Passion, making his way to Pilate’s Jerusalem courtroom,’ explains author Joe Nickell, who attempted to investigate the site using a scientific approach in a 2007 book, Relics of the Christ.
It’s said the marble stairs were later brought to Rome around 326 AD by Helena of Constantinople, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great. She was 80 years old at the time.
When Constantine came to power, he put an end to Christian persecution in Rome and pushed the expansion of Christianity throughout the Empire.
Still, archaeologists have cast doubts on the authenticity of the Scala Sancta story and others like it. Recent research suggests the Pretorium of Pilate was not actually located where the legend says it was.
The site itself has ‘no traces of ancient stairs, removed or otherwise,’ Nickell notes, citing an earlier investigation by archaeologists Carsten Peter Thiede and Matthew D’Ancona.
Helena (St. Helena, St. Helen) is also credited with discovering the ‘True Cross’ – upon which Jesus was crucified – after it was hidden in Jerusalem.
The cross was brought back to Constantinople, though a portion remained in Jerusalem. Experts have debated the validity of the story over the years, with little evidence to corroborate the details.
In 2013, however, Turkish archaeologists discovered a chest which they say contained a piece of the cross.
The marble was covered some 300 years ago on the orders of pope Innocent XIII amid fears it was getting worn down by the hands and knees of worshipers, who caused a dip in the stone of 15cm in some parts
The stairs were last opened in the 50s and as work commenced this year to see them opened again, experts from Vatican Museums found notes an other offerings that were shoved under the planks.
Paolo Violini, the coordinator of the restoration, said: ‘We found them step by step as we removed the floorboards – many, many little notes and coins, left as offerings.’
The entire sanctuary is currently undergoing restoration work which has lasted 60 years, with frescoes already returned to former glory, and work is expected to be completed next year.
Guido Cornini, a curator from the museums, said: ‘If you close your eyes for a moment, you can imagine yourself back in the medieval era, the last time that people scaled these steps on their knees.’
Faithful, with protective coverings on their feet, kneel on the steps after they were opened since the first time since the fifties
A woman kneels on the newly restored Holy Stairs during a special opening in Rome on Thursday 11 April
The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Angelo De Donatis, blesses the restored Holy Stairs at yesterday’s ceremony in Rome
The original marble steps will be accessible until June 9, 2019, the Feast of the Pentecost, after witch their walnut wood covering will be repositioned