Ecce Homo Convent of the Sisters of Zion
Ecce Homo Convent of the Sisters of Zion Review
The arch that crosses the Via Dolorosa, just beyond Station II, continues into the chapel of the adjacent convent. It was once thought to have been the gate of Herod's Antonia fortress, perhaps the spot where the Roman governor Pontius Pilate presented Jesus to the crowd with the words "Ecce homo!" ("Behold, the man!"). Recent scholarship has determined otherwise: it was a triumphal arch built by the Roman emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD.
The basement of the convent has several points of interest: an impressive reservoir with a barrel-vault roof, apparently built by Hadrian in the moat of Herod's older Antonia fortress; a small but attractive collection of ancient artifacts found on site; and the famous lithostratos, or stone pavement, etched with games played by Roman legionnaires. The origin of one such diversion—the notorious Game of the King—called for the execution of a mock king, a sequence tantalizingly reminiscent of the New Testament description of the treatment of Jesus by the Roman soldiers. Contrary to tradition, however, the pavement of large, foot-worn brown flagstones is apparently not from Jesus' day, but was laid down a century later. Allow 30 minutes for the visit.