Gallonio: Tortures
The text of Gallonio: Tortures


Seeing we do propose in this book to treat of the divers instruments of Martyrdom and of the countless modes wherein the most glorious and unconquered soldiers of our Lord Jesus Christ underwent death with a brave heart for His honour, we have judged it proper to begin our task with the blessed and holy Cross. For this it was whereon the Saviour of the World, bursting the bonds of death, did vanquish that cunning serpent, the Devil, and by His sufferings earned for His servants so great fortitude as that they were ready in gladness of spirit to endure the most arduous hardships of every sort, even, if need were, to the shedding of their blood and the most cruel lopping off of all their limbs. Forasmuch, therefore, as these professors and preachers of the sacred and divine Law won from the Cross that strength they did display in tortures and torments, it hath seemed to us meet and becoming to put the Cross first in this our book. But whereas stakes set up in the ground were included by the Ancients under the common name of cross, we must accordingly treat of these likewise in the same chapter, as well as of divers other modes wherein the bodies of the Blessed Martyrs were suspended as punishment for defending of the Faith of Christ; for, indeed, whether nailed to the cross or bound to wooden poles, they may equally be said in a sense to have hung suspended.

But to return to the Cross, we may say that not only were the Jews accustomed to nail condemned criminals to the cross, but the Gentiles likewise. And this is expressly stated by sundry of their own authors—in the first place by Cicero in several places (especially in the Philippics and De Finibus), also by Valerius Maximus, by Livy, Curtius, Suetonius (Galba), and Seneca (De Consolatione). This last passage shows that crosses were of more than one kind, as is plain from the words hereunder quoted: “From this I gather that crosses were not all of one kind, but differently made by different people. Some there are who hang the criminal head downwards, while others drive a stake through his entrails, and others again stretched out his arms on a forked gallows,” etc. Now as for what he says here, “others drive a stake through his entrails,” what sort of cross this was, the same Seneca doth elsewhere explain; for he calls this kind of cross, in his indictment of the luxurious Mecænas, a sharp-pointed cross. From which anyone may readily understand that, while one form of cross was like those we commonly designate by the word cross, another resembled the sharp stakes which at the present day the Turks employ for executing criminals, driving them through the victims’ middle up to the head. Read also Procopius, Vandal War.

On the first kind of Cross (as Seneca states in the above passage, and numerous Acts of the Saints bear witness) some were fixed with their heads toward the ground, others with them raised to heaven. In both these ways were the Christian martyrs crucified by the worshippers of idols. Amongst others which won the crown of martyrdom by crucifixion head downwards was the chief of the Apostles himself, St. Peter, concerning whom Origen writes thus: “When Peter was come to the outskirts of Rome, with head placed downwards (for so he desired himself to suffer), he was nailed to the Cross.”

St. Augustine again writes: “So both (Peter and Paul) hasten to attain to the palm of martyrdom, and win the crown thereof.” And a little lower down: “Peter for Christ’s sake is suspended on the tree head downward; Paul slain with the sword. The Apostle went with his own feet to meet Christ, and looking upward with his eyes to heaven, sent forth his blessed spirit to the heavens above.” To the same purport (to pass over other Fathers) St. Chrysostom (Homily on the Chief of the Apostles): “ Rejoice, Peter, to whom hath been vouchsafed to enjoy Christ on the tree, and who wast fain to be crucified as thy Master was, yet not with form upright like Christ the Lord, but with head turned to the ground, as one journeying from earth to heaven. Blessed the nails which did pierce those holy limbs.” Thus Chrysostom. To this most holy Apostle of Christ may be further added St. Calliopus, which died the same death for guarding the Christian Faith, and bravely and signally did triumph over the World and the Devil. So much, then, for Martyrs crucified with feet upward towards the sky.

But with feet pointing to the ground (to continue our theme) there suffered many clarion-voiced champions of the Christian Law,—for instance, St. Philip and St. Andrew, Apostles; Nestor, a Bishop; Timon, a Deacon, and others. Beside these, moreover, the Roman Martyrology tells of ten thousand Martyrs so crucified, and in special a certain Simeon, a Bishop, who at the date of his Martyrdom was in the one hundred and twentieth year of his age. Concerning the first-named, that is, the ten thousand that were lifted up on the Cross (22 June), we read: “On Mount Ararat the passion of ten thousand blessed Martyrs which were crucified.” Concerning St. Simeon (20 April): “At Jerusalem anniversary of the Blessed Simeon, Bishop and Martyr, which is said to have been son of Cleophas and a kinsman of the Saviour according to the flesh. Ordained Bishop of Jerusalem next after James, brother of Our Lord, after suffering in the persecution of Trajan many tortures, he died a Martyr, all present and the very Judge himself marvelling how an old man of an hundred and twenty years should have endured the punishment of the Cross bravely and unflinchingly.” The same Bishop Simeon is commemorated likewise by Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History).