Technique for carrying out the death penalty. Nail the prisoner to a pair of perpendicular beams, and let him hang until he dies. Most famous victim: Jesus Christ - his execution fulfilled various Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, and a few other things. The crucifix in Christianity is a reminder; was it Lenny Bruce who had a routine about wearing tiny electric chairs around our necks? Crucifixion is done today in the Sudan, part of the government's persecution of Christians.

Crucifixions in the Philippines

Every Good Friday, pious Filipinos walk the streets flagellating themselves with cat-o-nine-tails tipped with broken glass, in an attempt to expiate their sins.

A select few, however, go one step further. They re-enact Christ's crucifixion, including dragging the cross up a convenient hill (while being whipped by friends and family), having themselves nailed to it, and hanging for hours, under the sweltering heat of the tropic sun.

Done in several remote provinces, notably Pangasinan and Bulacan, there are, of course, several differences from an actual crucifixion - nobody has died from one of these re-enactments (yet). The nails are stainless steel, soaked in alcohol. When the crosses are erected, ropes are tied under the penitent's armpits, to support the upper body and prevent suffocation. They are only allowed to stay on the cross until the town doctor feels they cannot take anymore, whereupon they are brought down (gently), the nails are removed, and the penitent goes off to wash his wounds in the river (which, according to local belief, will close up and heal within a day or two if the penitent was granted redemption.)

And the primary difference, of course, is that these people actually WANT to be nailed to a largish piece of wood. That's right, they do it willingly, as a show of their faith. Penitents who do this are usually middle-aged men, some of them ex-convicts, who view crucifixion as a way to pay for the sins of their past lives. Some also believe that crucifying themselves will also atone for the sins of their family and loved ones. Some of them do it once, and return to their families, while others return yearly, those who believe once isn't enough to wash away whatever transgression they once committed.

There has been only one instance I know of where a foreigner (a Japanese) was allowed to join this tradition. Unfortunately, said Japanese gentleman failed to mention he and his crew were actually in the process of shooting a porn movie, using the crucifixion as footage. Since then, the scandalized townspeople have never allowed outsiders to join this ceremony.

Also a play, written and directed by Steve Lambert, who also played Yehoshua. It was performed by the Badac Theatre company at the 2000 Edinburgh Fringe festival.

Set in Auschwitz, it focuses on the torture of Yehoshua, who believes he is the Christ. He is spun around on a spit and beaten by two Nazi officers, until he finally curses God.

According to Badac's website, they are concerned with how human rights issues affect the individual. Both their plays have been about the Holocaust. When writing this one, they wanted to explore torture and religious persecution - the best-known examples of both being Jesus Christ and the death camps. You could also find in it a comment on the evils of Nazism, that they would want to destroy the Son of God.

The play has had four- and five-star reviews, with the reviewers emphasising how good and how disturbing it is.

Cru`ci*fix"ion (kr?`s?-f?k"sh?n), n.


The act of nailing or fastening a person to a cross, for the purpose of putting him to death; the use of the cross as a method of capital punishment.


The state of one who is nailed or fastened to a cross; death upon a cross.


Intense suffering or affliction; painful trial.

Do ye prove What crucifixions are in love? Herrick.


© Webster 1913.

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