Sarcophagus of the Cross

Late 4th or 5th century?
Pio-Christian Museum, the Vatican

The photograph on the right is of a side of the sarcophagus: Pilate washing his hands. The center of the front depicts Jesus with a cross accompanied by Paul on the left (pointy beard) and Peter on the right (square beard). That panel is flanked by two others depicting the arrests of Peter (on the left) and Jesus (on the right).

While at the museum I neglected to photograph the label for this sarcophagus, so I have to invent for it the name "Sarcophagus of the Cross" and make a guess that the date is late in the 4th century or even later. Columns and arches are more common after the middle of the 4th, and later examples tend to have fewer scenes than earlier ones.

Also, none of the 4th-century sarcophagi that I examined showed Jesus holding a cross or paired his arrest so emphatically with Peter's. Indeed, the whole front seems intended to illustrate Jesus' saying, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24, c.f. Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23).

View this image in full resolution.
Read more about the Arrest of Jesus, Jesus tried by Pilate, St. Peter, and St. Paul.

Photographed at the museum by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.