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What is the Praetorium

Holy Land Explained

The Praetorium is mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible, in the context of the trial of Jesus Christ before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. The term is used in several Gospel accounts of the trial. But does anyone knows where is it?


Antonia Fortress
The Antonia As Seen on the Model of Second Temple Jerusalem, Israel Museum.

In the New Testament, the Praetorium is the place where Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, for trial. It is described as a large and impressive building located in Jerusalem. According to the Gospel of John, the Praetorium was where Jesus was flogged and sentenced to death by crucifixion.


The-Church-of-the-Flagellation-Inside
Chapel of Flagellation

Historians and archaeologists have debated the exact location of the Praetorium in Jerusalem, with some suggesting that it may have been located in the Antonia Fortress, a large military installation near the Temple Mount. Others have suggested that the Praetorium may have been located in a different building altogether. Perhaps where was Herod’s palace, later used by Pontius Pilate.


The Architecture of Herod's Palace - Herod Palace Jerusalem
A Model of Herod’s Palace in Jerusalem As Seen on Second Temple Jerusalem Model

Regardless of its exact location, the Praetorium is an important site in both Roman and Christian history, and it continues to be a subject of study and fascination for scholars and visitors alike.

Praetorium at the Royal Palace, Not at Antonia

There are textual and archaeological arguments against the trial of Jesus at the Antonia Fortress. Like Philo, Josephus testifies that the Roman governors stayed in Herod’s Palace while they were in Jerusalem and carried out their trials on the pavement immediately outside it (Josephus, Jewish Wars, 2:14:8). Josephus indicates that Herod’s Palace is on the Western Hill (Jewish Wars, 5:2) and in 2001 some of its vestiges were rediscovered under a corner of the Tower of David.


Pontius-Pilate-Lithostratos
The Lithostrotos, Where Tradition Points to Jesus’ Trial By Pilate.

Archaeologists, therefore, conclude that in the first century, the praetorium—the residence of the Roman governor —was in the former royal palace on the Western Hill rather than at the Antonia Fortress, on the opposite side of the city. However, as the tradition retained its power in associating the fortress with Jesus’ trial, the place where it once stood serves as the starting point of the Via Dolorosa commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus.

Paul’s prison in Caesarea?

When the newly converted Paul the Apostle was in danger in Jerusalem, the Christians there accompanied him to Caesarea and sent him off to his native Tarsus. He visited Caesarea between his second and third missionary journeys and later, as mentioned, stayed several days there with Philip the Deacon. Later still, he was a prisoner there for two years before being sent to Rome.


St. Peter & St. Paul Tour-Herods-Palace-in-Caesarea-Maritima
An Aerial View of Herod’s Palace in Caesarea

In modern translations, it mentions the place of Pual’s imprisonment in Caesarea as Herod’s Palace. However, reading earlier versions, like the King James version, says the Praetorium. With all probability, it was there.

arik-about

Hi! My name is Arik, an Israeli native who dedicated his life to sharing my passion for the Holy Land with those interested in knowing more about this incredible piece of land. I’m the Chief Guide at ‘APT Private Tours in Israel’.

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