Pilate, however, sends back the paper with his well-known words, "What I have written I have written."

As if rejoicing to outwit the priests, the Roman centurion seizes the paper, and with one blow of the hammer nails it just above the sufferer's head.



The Uplifted Cross

The Uplifted Cross.

As the cross was then slowly raised to the perpendicular, and the form of Maier was seen, suspended upon it, I caught my breath in fear lest it should fall forward and precipitate him to the ground. Apparently he had no support whatever. Not a trace of any ligament could be discerned, and it was hard to believe that he was not actually nailed to the wood.

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion.

The fact is that Maier wears beneath his tightly-fitting suit of silk a strong corset, into the back of which are fastened hooks which clasp into corresponding rings in the body of the cross. These constitute his only real support; although a tiny piece of wood is placed beneath one heel, and nails, driven between his fingers, give the slightest possible relief to his extended arms. At best, however, to hang there for twenty minutes, is, as he himself assured us, exceedingly exhausting. The realism in all this is terrible. Apparently we see the blood-stained nails piercing both hands and feet.

The crown of thorns still wounds his forehead; his garments are still marked with the blood of the scourging; and, most trying of all, when the centurion's spear pierces his side, what seems to be real blood spurts forth and leaves a crimson stain.

The figure of Maier, as it hangs upon the cross, completely satisfies, from a physical point of view, our ideal of the Crucified One. He is a man more than six feet tall, and has a form that a sculptor might covet for a model. While, therefore, he was suspended on the cross, his figure standing out in clear relief against the background of the inner stage, it seemed to us that we had never seen a crucifix in marble, of ivory, or on canvas, that equaled it in beauty. His words uttered from that position were given with inimitable tenderness. Never can I forget the first sentence that he spoke. Our nerves had been for some time strained to their utmost tension by his previous sufferings and pitiful position, and it thrilled us indescribably to hear him, in a voice broken with pain, answer the railings of the crowd with the pathetic utterance: "Father, forgive them: they know not what they do." Soon after he turned his weary eyes from his mother to his beloved disciple, and exclaimed: "Mutter, siehe Deinen So/in, - Sohn, siehe Deine Mutter!"

All the details were carried out just as narrated in the Gospels. The soldiers cast lots for his garments; the sponge was held to his parched lips; and the mysterious, awful words were uttered: "My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?"

The Passion Play 357He Is Risen. (Ender)

He Is Risen. (Ender).

Finally, it is evident that the end draws near. With a loud voice he cries at last: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." The head droops wearily upon the breast. It is finished.

The descent from the cross was beautiful and affecting. The scene was almost an exact reproduction of the masterpiece of Rubens. Two ladders were placed against the cross, one in front, the other in the rear. Nico-demus first ascended and tenderly drew the nails from the wounded palms. The stiffened arms were gently laid upon the shoulders of Joseph of Arimathaea, who stood on the ladder facing the divine figure. Then, by means of a long roll of linen cloth, the body was gradually lowered to the ground. Nicodemus, Joseph, and John lifted the prostrate body, and, with a touching combination of solicitude and tender reverence, laid their precious burden at the feet of Mary, his head resting on his mother's lap.

What made this scene even more pathetic was the fact that it took place under the open sky, as if in actual life. The lights and shadows of the clouds fell on the form suspended on the cross. The breeze stirred the mantle of the weeping mother. The birds flew lightly back and forth above the stage, singing joyously, much as they did, perhaps, on Calvary itself, blithely unconscious now, as then, of earthly tragedy and woe.