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Claudia Procula

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Claudia Procula

Saint Procula (Procla)
or Claudia
icon of Saint Procla
Honored in Eastern Orthodox Church
Ethiopian Orthodox Church
Feast 27 October (Eastern Orthodox)
25 June (Ethiopian Orthodox)

Pontius Pilate's wife (Latin: uxor Pilati; Greek: γυνὴ Πιλάτου, gunē Pilātou; fl. 1st century) is unnamed in the New Testament, where she appears a single time in the Gospel of Matthew. In later Christian tradition, she is known variously as Saint Procula (also spelled Proculla or Procla), Saint Claudia, Claudia Procles or Claudia Procula. Christian literature and legends have amplified the brief anecdote about Pilate's wife in the New Testament.

Biblical references

In the New Testament, the only reference to Pilate's wife exists in a single sentence by Matthew. According to Matthew 27:19, she sent a message to her husband asking him not to condemn Jesus Christ to death:

While Pilate was sitting in the judgment hall, his wife sent him a message: "Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because in a dream last night, I suffered much on account of him."[1]

Pilate did not heed the warning of his wife, who is not named. The name "Claudia" appears only once in the New Testament, in the Second Epistle to Timothy 4:21: "Eubulus, Pudens, Linus and Claudia send their greetings, and so all the other Christians."

Early Christian literature

In the 2nd century, Origen suggested in his Homilies on Matthew that the wife of Pilate had become a Christian,[2][3] or at least that God sent her the dream mentioned by Matthew so that she would convert.[4][5] This interpretation was shared by several theologians of Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Rival theologians contended the dream was sent by Satan in an attempt to thwart the salvation that was going to result from Christ's death.[4][5]

Pilate's wife is mentioned in the apocryphal Acts of Pilate (Gospel of Nicodemus, probably written around the middle of the 4th century),[6] which gives a more elaborate version of the episode of the dream than Matthew.[7][8] The name Procula derives from translated versions of that text. She is first named as Claudia in 1619, in the chronicle of Pseudo-Dexter.[5]


Procula is recognized as a saint in two churches within the Eastern Christian tradition: the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, she is celebrated on 27 October. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Pilate and Procula together on 25 June.[2][9]

Purported letter by Pilate's wife

A letter, purportedly written in Latin by Pilate's wife from "a little Gallic mountain town" several years after Pilate left Jerusalem, was first published in English by Pictorial Review Magazine in April 1929.[10] The English version of the letter was provided by writer Catherine Van Dyke and it states that Pilate's wife successfully sought Jesus' aid to heal the crippled foot of her son Pilo.[11]


Art and literature to 1800

Pilate's wife is sometimes shown in medieval depictions of scenes including her husband. She typically stands behind him, sometimes whispering in his ear.[12]

She is a major character in the Tapiters' and Couchers' Play of the York Mystery Plays cycle, where she introduces herself as "Dame Precious Percula".[13] Her dream is dictated by the Devil. He first soliloquises to the effect that if Jesus dies, he, the Devil, will lose control of men's souls. He then tells the sleeping Percula that Jesus is innocent, and that if he is condemned, she and Pilate will lose their privileged position. She wakes and sends a message to Pilate, but Annas and Caiaphas succeed in convincing him that her dream was inspired by Jesus's witchcraft.

Modern literature

Charlotte Brontë wrote the poem "Pilate's Wife's Dream" in 1846.[14] The Biblical scholar Paul Maier, in Pontius Pilate: A Biographical Novel (1968), attempts to take what is known from the documented record and from there construct a fictional narrative as connective material. Maier refers to Pilate's wife as "Procula," arguing that the name "Claudia" only comes from a later tradition.[15]

Novels inspired by Pilate's wife include The Bride of Pilate (1959) by Esther Kellner; and Pilate's Wife: A Novel of the Roman Empire (2006), & Claudia: Daughter of Rome (2008), both by Antoinette May. All books use the name Claudia, and May's book depicts her parents as Roman aristocrats related by blood to Emperor Augustus.[16] Pilate's Wife by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), written between 1929 and 1934 but posthumously published in 2000, presents Pilate's wife with the name Veronica.[17] Carol Ann Duffy's 1999 poetry collection 'The World's Wife' also contains a poem titled 'Pilate's Wife'.

Modern theatre, film, and television

In theater, the life of Pilate's wife has been the subject of the dramas “A Play for Easter” by Jewell Ellen Smith[18] and “Claudia Procula” by Curt M. Joseph.[19]The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice stage musical Jesus Christ Superstar and the subsequent film version mistakingly attribute the dream to Pontius Pilate instead of his wife. The film dedicates an entire number to this dream in the song Pilate's Dream.[20]

In films, Pilate's wife was called “Proculla” in the 1927 Cecil B. DeMille epic The King of Kings; Majel Coleman played the role. She had a major part in Julien Duvivier's Golgotha (1935), played by Edwige Feuillère. She is mentioned briefly in Pilate's hand-washing scene in 1953's The Robe ("Even my wife had an opinion"). Other notable cinematic references include Barbara Billingsley in the 1954 Day of Triumph, Viveca Lindfors in the 1961 King of Kings (where she is identified as the daughter of the Emperor Tiberius), Jeanne Crain in the 1962 Italian film Ponzio Pilato, and Angela Lansbury in the 1965 epic The Greatest Story Ever Told.[21]

In the 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ, she is known as Claudia Procles (played by Claudia Gerini). In this film, Claudia fails in her effort to lobby her husband to save Jesus,[22] and consoles Jesus' mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, as she generously hands them towels to clean up the blood from his scourging.[23]

Pontius Pilate's wife also has appeared in comedy: John Case played her in Monty Python's 1979 Life of Brian.[24]

On television, Pilate’s wife was played by Joan Leslie in the 1951 Family Theater episode "Hill Number One" (also starring James Dean as John the Apostle), and by Geraldine Fitzgerald in the 1952 Studio One episode "Pontius Pilate" (where Procula is depicted as half-Jewish, and is brought before Pilate as a Christian rebel herself, fifteen years after Jesus' death.) Hope Lange played her in the 1980 made-for-television film The Day Christ Died. More recently, Pilate's wife is featured in the 2008 TV serial The Passion, played by Esther Hall, and on the 2013 miniseries The Bible, portrayed by Louise Delamere.[25]

See also

  • List of names for the Biblical nameless


External links

  • At Mel Gibson's film)
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