Sing: Be Thou My Vision, UMH 451
In 130 AD the Roman Emperor Hadrian began transforming the ruins of Jerusalem into a Hellenistic city named Colonia Aelia Capitolina; a Roman colony named for Hadrian’s family and the three gods to be worshiped there – Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. After the Bar Kochba Revolt Hadrian intended to stamp out the practice of Judaism and barred Jews from entering or coming within sight of this new city. The only exception to this rule was the holy day Tisha B'Av. Hadrian also renamed the Roman province surrounding Aelia Capitolina from Judea to Syrian Palestine.
The arch (see the attached photo) was the center span of a triple arch built at the western end of the eastern marketplace and served as the Western Gate of the new city. This triple archway served as an arch of triumph commemorating the Roman victory over Jewish rebels led by Bar Kochba from 132–135 AD.
In the mid-19th century, the northern arch was incorporated into the interior of the Convent of the Sisters of Zion and the southern end was destroyed to build a mosque. Today the center arch is topped by a small room which is used as an office and the northern arch can be seen inside the convent chapel.
The name “Ecce Homo” is Latin for “behold the man,” words spoken by Pontius Pilate when he presented Jesus to a hostile crowd. At one time it was believed that this was the place where Pilate brought Jesus out to the people. Hadrian’s marketplace plaza was mistaken for “The Stone Pavement” of John 19: 13. (“The Stone Pavement” is Gabbatha in Aramaic and Lithostrotos in Greek.) So Hadrian’s Arch became known as the Ecce Homo Arch and the convent was named the Ecce Homo Convent.
This is part of the Via Dolorosa, “The Way of Sorrows,” the traditional path of Jesus from his trial to his crucifixion and burial – where thousands of pilgrims come to see the man!