The Celtic Literature Collective

The Pilate Miscellany

In Robert Williams' Selections from the Hengwrt Mss., there are four texts published together as one work, and Williams indicates that they are grouped together in whichever manuscript he was working from.

The History of Pontius Pilate | The History of Judas Iscariot
Signs of Judgement Day | The Wafer

The History of Pilate

I.—In the olden time there was a King named Eres and he had knowledge of a maiden called Pila, who was the daughter of a miller named Atus. And by her the King had a son, and his mother composed the child’s name of her own name and that of her father and gave him the name of Pilatus. And when he was three years of age, Pila sent him to the King, his father; and there was there another son of the King, by the Queen, who was almost of the same age as Pilatus. And when they all came together, it was their wont, both of them, to contend frequently in slinging and putting stones, and each of them wrangled with the other. And still, as the legitimate son was nobler than the illegitimate, through his superiority he was stouter at every game. And for this reason Pilatus waxed insolent with jealousy towards his brother, and slew his brother covertly. And when it came to the ears of the King, he grieved, and after this he called to him his council to ask what he should do about that heinous murderer. All of them urged him to put him to death. Nevertheless the King bethought him that it was not well to make two iniquities of one, but better to send him as hostage for tribute that the men of Rome owed him each year; for it pleased him that his son should escape without being slain, and withal that he should be freed from the tribute.

II.—And at the same time a son of the King of France was hostage for tribute with the men of Rome. And after they had companied together, Pilatus saw the other’s excellence in the ordinances, that it was greater than his; so, at the dictates of jealousy, he slew this man also. And when the men of Rome had thought what they should do with him, they said If we leave this man alive after he has slain his brother, and hilled the son of the King of France, he may rouse the anger of the men of Rome for the injuries of this foolish people. Since he has deserved execution, let us send him to the Isle of the Bridge, as a judge over the people that never suffered a judge over them; and one of two things will befall him—either he will tame that unruly people, or he will be deservedly destroyed. And then Pilatus was sent to the ferocious race that had ever slain their judges. And he understood what was before him, and craftily made a covenant with them, and kept his life in their midst, and that iniquitous people he subdued, sometimes by threats, at other times by entreating them gently, sometimes by punishment, sometimes by gifts. And through his overcoming a people so ungentle, thenceforward he was called Pilatus of the Isle of the Bridge. And when cruel Herod heard of the stratagems of Pilatus, he rejoiced, for he too was subtle, and invited him to him, and gave him power over the land of Judea and Jerusalem, as much as was in his own hand.

III.—And after amassing vast treasure there, he proceeded to take the treasure without Herod’s license, and brought it to Tiberius, the Emperor, and received from the Emperor an extension of the power that he had held from Herod. And for this reason hostility arose between Herod and Pilatus, until they were reconciled at the time of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And as to Herod, another reason is told in the school histories for the strife between them. This was that some one or other had made himself out to ho a Son of God and deceived many of the Jews. And after He had brought them to the place that is called Gazarim, where He had said that He would ascend to heaven, Pilatus slew Him and those that were with Him, to prevent His seducing other Jews in the same way; and this was why Pilatus and Herod were enemies, for Herod possessed Galilee, And each of the two reasons may be true. However, when Pilatus gave up the Lord to the Jews to he crucified, he was afraid of offending Tiberius the Emperor, about destroying guiltless blood; he therefore sent to the Emperor a person in whom he trusted, to make excuses for him.

IV.—Meanwhile disease and leprosy attacked the Emperor. And it was told him that there was a physician in Jerusalem that healed all men by His Word, and he did not know that Pilatus and the Jews had already crucified Him. And the Emperor sent to Pilatus a beloved servant of his, in whom he trusted greatly in his secrets, Valesianus by name, to bid him send him by night, as soon as he could, the physician there, who could make him whole, as it had been told him, And when this reached Pilatus, and he was told that the Emperor sent the message, Pilatus was alarmed and asked for a fortnight’s time to seek Him. And as the messenger waited ho found a discreet woman, Veronica by name, and questioned her, where Jesus could be found. Alas, said she, He was my Lord and God. When the Jews gave Him up to Pilatus through envy, he delivered Him to death and commanded Him to be crucified.

V.—And then he was exceedingly grieved. It is a great affliction to me, said he, that I cannot fulfil that which my lord commanded. Then Veronica spoke to him: I asked my Lord, said she, for the form of His face, and He pressed His face in a cloth, and gave it me for the length of the time that it was for me to see His face, when He went to preach, so that His image might comfort me in His absence. And He gave me on this account, said she, His revered features imprinted on a cloth. I believe, said she, that if this lord looked upon that impression, undoubtedly, he would find health, as good as ever it was. Is the image sold, said he, for gold or silver l It is not sold, said she, save for meekness of heart. I will go with thee, said she, to show the image to the Emperor, and let him look thereon and then I will return. And so Valesianus, taking Veronica with him, came to Rome and told Tiberius the Emperor that Jesus, the man he wished for, had been given over iniquitously to death by Pilatus to the Jews, and that they in envy had placed Him upon the cross. And therefore this discreet woman has brought the impress of that Jesus’s face to show thee: and if thou lookest upon His image, straightway thou wilt find health.

VI.—And then the Emperor caused the road by which the image should come to be spread with silk and fine sendal, and ordered that it should be shown before him. And as soon as ho looked upon it ho received full health. And from that time to this the image remains at Rome, in the Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul, to be shown to the people. And there it is called Veronica unto this day, after the name of the woman that had brought it. Thereupon, at the request of Tiberius the Emperor, Pilatus was taken and brought to Rome. And then Pilatus brought in his possession a coat, upon which there was no seam. And when Caesar heard that Pilatus was come, be was filled with rage, and commanded him to be brought before him. And as soon as the Emperor saw him, ho rose gently to meet him, and ho could not say a harsh word against him, and in his absence he was like an enemy towards him, while before him he was peaceable towards him. And when he let him go from him he would be filled with wrath, and would cause him to be called back, and swear ho should be put to death, and that it was not right for him to live on the face of the earth. Meanwhile, as ho came back, all his wrath and anger would vanish from him. And that surprised all, and the Emperor as well; in Pilatus’s absence he would fall into a passion, but to his face ho felt no anger.

VII.—And this happened a third time. And then Veronica came to the Emperor and told him that he had on him the coat that His Glorious Mother made for Jesus Christ; and no one could do him any harm so long as be wore the coat. And then the Emperor let strip the coat from Pilatus, and he was fiercely enraged. And as the Emperor wondered at the occurrence, it was told him that it was Jesus Christ’s coat that protected him. And then the Emperor commanded him to be put in prison until he should determine, by the counsel of wise men, what death he ought to receive. And judgment was given that Pilatus should be removed by the basest death. And when Pilatus heard this, he brought death upon himself with his knife, and thus he met his end. And when the Emperor knew this, he said that ho had met with the foulest death, as ho adjudged it him. And then he was bound to a weight of huge size and flung into the river Tiber. And there the devils revelled over that polluted corpse. Then the filthy carcass began to cause an overflow in the sea, and in the water, and caused storms and lightning and thunder and hail in the air, so that all that listened were amazed.

VIII.—Therefore the men of Rome took the corpse out of the river Tiber, and, to make sport of it, they brought it to Vigenna and throw it headlong into the river Rodro, (now Vigenna is the road to hell), for it was an accursed river, and there the devils ever make their home. And the people that were there likewise could not endure the disturbance of the devils over the body; they thrust out from them also the accursed vessel and brought it to the borders of Losan to be buried. And when they again were oppressed by the excessive disturbance, they brought it thence, and cast it into a well that was in a mountain, where, it is said, the snow in the wells ever bubbles, And thus it befell Pilatus.

The History of Judas


IX.—It has been read in some history that there was a man at Jerusalem, and his name was Reuben, and he was also called of the line of Iron of the tribe of Judas, or, according to others, of the line of Issachar. And he had a wife called Cyborea. And one night his wife fell asleep and saw a dream, and awoke in terror, and related it to her husband, groaning and lamenting the while. It appeared to me, said she, that I gave birth to a noble child, who would be the cause of perdition to a wicked generation. Whether it is an incantation that thou art prophesying, said Reuben, from God or from evil spirit or from vanity, this leads to mischief. If I have conceived, said the wife, doubtless it is no vanity but a vision.

X.—And when the time came that she should bring forth, a son was born her, and they feared the people because of it, and bethought them what they should do with him. And though they were in terror of the child, they could not do away with him. And yet, to prevent their being destroyed by the nation, they cast him in a leathern basket into the sea, and the waves threw him out to an island called Scarioth. And hero he was found, and was called Judas Scarioth thereafter. And the Queen of that place one day was walking hard by the sea beach, and discovered a vessel cast up by the waves to land. And the Queen commanded that it should be opened. And ‘when it was opened, behold, there was a child of comely form. And with a groan she spake, O truly Son of God, said she, can I find comfort in this child as my heir, so that I may not leave my kingdom heirless? for I have no heir. And she bade them nurture the child secretly and feign that she was with child.

XI.—And in due time she said that a son was born her, and commanded it to be published throughout the kingdom. And the princes rejoiced greatly, and the people, that the Queen had an heir. And it was caused that the son should be nurtured as befitted his dignity. And no long time after, the Queen. conceived and gave birth to son. And when they were both reared together, and grew in years, they often ‘wrangled, and Judas hurt the King's son, and made him weep repeatedly. And this was more than the Queen could bear, for Judas did not belong to her, and she beat the lad frequently; but for all that, he would not let the son alone. At last it was told Judas that he was not the Queen’s son, but a chance child. And then shame fell upon Judas, and he killed the son of the King. And he fled from there to Jerusalem with comrades, for fear of destruction. And there he joined himself to the court of Pilatus, who was Governor there. And as all things that resemble each other in character harmonise, the ways of Judas and those of Pilatus at once agreed, and therefore Judas was dear to him. And so he gave Judas authority over all his possessions, and they ordained everything with full accord.

XII.—And one day Pilatus espied an orchard from his palace, and longed for the apples so much that be could not do without them. And this orchard belonged to Reuben, the father of Judas. And Reuben did not know Judas, nor Judas his father, because he had been cast into the sea when newly born, so that Judas did not know from what land he was sprung. Pilatus s called Judas to him, and told him that his desire of the apples was so strong that, unless be obtained them, he ‘was likely to die. And at once Judas leapt into the orchard, and quickly took the apples. Meantime, lo, there was Reuben coming, and he found Judas gathering the apples. Thereupon they strove, and quarrelled, and fought together; and at last Judas cut off Reuben’s head ; then he brought the apples to Pilatus, and related to him the mishap. And when day came and night was ended, Reuben was found dead. And then it was supposed that some other accident had befallen him. And thereupon Pilatus gave Judas all Reuben’s powers together with Cyborea, Reuben’s wife, to be the wife of Judas.

XIII.—And one day Cyborea was moaning. Judas asked her ‘what had happened to her. it is, said she, that I am the most hapless of all women; I drowned my son in the sea, said she, and found my husband dead in my own orchard; and it increases my woes that I was given by Pilatus, the most wretched of women as I am, in wedlock to thee. And when she had related her misfortune, Judas related what had befallen him. And then it was found that it ‘was his mother that he had taken to wife, and it was his father that he had slain. And then in repentance Cyborea came to our Lord Jesus Christ, to entreat of Him forgiveness of her sins. And the Lord made her son His disciple, and one of His apostles, and Judas became dear to Him, and He made him His steward, and then he was found to be a traitor in His service, and he carried the wallet in ‘which ‘were the things that were given to Christ.

XIV.—And at the time that the Lord suffered, Judas was vexed that the ointment that came to anoint the Lord was not sold for thirty pieces of silver, so that he might steal that money. And then he came and sold the Lord for thirty pieces of silver, and each one of them was worth ten pence in current money; and in that way he compensated himself for the loss of the value of the ointment; or, as others say, from all the goods that were given to Christ he stole the tenth part, and therefore, to make up for the tenth part of the worth of the ointment that he lost, he sold his Lord for thirty pieces. And these he brought back in remorse, and then hanged himself; and as he hung, his bowels were rent, and his entrails were let to the ground. And at the same time the mouth was spared, because it did not deserve pollution, for it had been kissed by the mouth of the Lord. The bowels, however, that had conceived the betrayal, deserved to be torn and to fall down. And the neck, too, wherefrom the treachery came, deserved to be choked by the halter in the air above. And because he had offended the angels in heaven, and men upon earth, he was estranged from the kingdom of angels, and the men made him the companion of the devils in air.

The Signs Before Judgement Day

These are the signs that shall come to pass during fifteen days before Judgment Day; which Bishop Morudd obtained from the books of St. Jerome ; and Bishop Morudd sang the stanzas.

¶ Gwyn, listen thou to the import of what the books so fully declare: evident miracles shall be seen,—the rising of the sea even to the sky.

¶ . . . . God said it—the many signs that shall be the fifteenth day before the Day of Judgment.

¶ The fourteenth day the sea shall long remain in the depth of the earth, as far as the sight can pierce; so that the wind cannot reach the waves.

¶ The thirteenth day bow terrible to see the Ocean, since, when one goes to gaze, not where it was, it shall be.

¶ The twelfth day God shall cause the creatures of the abounding sea, all the fishes, to come to the surface of the Ocean from its depth.

¶ The eleventh day, it is certain, the animals shall tremble for fear of inevitable destruction; the birds of the earth shall forget their food.

¶ The tenth day . . . . men shall not have comfort; the waste sea shall not be extinguished by reason of the great force of the streams of fire.

¶ The ninth day after the tenth shall come, God himself fashioning it, sulphureous fire throughout the laud impetuously falling from the stars.

¶ The eighth day, in accordance with the tokens, the Lord shall not conceal the war ; when the heights and hills shall burn, the churches shall certainly fall.

¶ The seventh day, a day of prognostication; the largest stones all shall split, and in the presence of God shall speak ; in terror of the judgment they shall rive.

¶ Bitter signs—the sixth day shall come blood from the grass and the trees, our Lord shall be our protector, who gave us, since we have received faith and baptism.

¶ The fifth day a matter for tumult how men and the earth shall tremble!

¶ The fourth day, the chief stroke, the animals of the earth shall leap wildly; they shall roam . . . since they know they shall go together.

¶ The third day a day of misery, through the terror of judgment what friends everyone has lost shall come to the surface of the earth.

The Wafer

¶ This is the grace of the wafer, when God, Very Man, is elevated, Two, Three, Trinity, Unity, One, Father, Son, Holy Ghost.

¶ In the purity of freedom before the Sovereign meekly we shall see Christ, the King, God of Heaven. It is a gift to confess the Divine, in the form of wheat and wine.

¶ From the wine and wafer we shall see bright commnnion, God in his own image, the gifted life of man’s end.

¶ Man is the priest to fashion the people, if they come for fear of danger to him, with great learning and power and Onr Brother between his hands.

¶ Between his hands it was fair, worthy the dawn, to see the conrt of the King of Heaven and Earth.

Selections from the Hengwrt Mss. Preserved in the Peniarth Library. Williams, Robert, ed. & trans. London: Thomas Richards, 1892.