Vengeance of the Savior

Vindicta Salvatoris

Standard Abbreviation: Veng. Sav.

Other Titles: Avenging of the Savior

Clavis Numbers: CANT 70; BHL 4221

Category: Pilate Cycle

Related Literature: Acts of Pilate, Healing of TiberiasDeath of Pilate (Mors Pilati)Epistle of Pilate to Claudius, Epistle of Pilate to Tiberius, Epistles of Pilate and Herod, Epistle of Tiberius to PilateGospel of Nicodemus, Handing Over of Pilate (Paradosis Pilati), Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea, Report of Pontius Pilate (Anaphora Pilati), Rufinus’ translation of Josephus’ Jewish War

Compiled by: Stephen C. E. Hopkins, Indiana University (

Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Hopkins, Stephen C.E. “The Vengeance of the Savior.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR.

Posted June 2017.


The Vengeance of the Savior (Vindicta Salvatoris) is a later addition to the body of texts known as the Pilate Cycle, with scholars dating its appearance to as early as the eighth century (Dobschütz assigns it to 700–720), though the oldest Latin manuscript, Bibliothèque Saint-Omer 202, dates from the ninth. Izydorczyk counts around 60 manuscripts, and in about a third of these, Vind. Salv. is placed soon after the Gospel of Nicodemus. Because of its popularity in England and early vernacularization there, early scholars (Tischendorf, Goodwin) suggested an Insular origin for the legend. Subsequent scholars (esp. Dobschütz, Besson, Cross, Brossard-Dandre, and Izydorczyk) place it as a continental text, perhaps from Aquitaine, given the text’s unusual initial focus on that region.

Veng. Sav. stands out among apocrypha for its lack of focus upon a central figure—that is, while many apocryphal texts pseudepigraphically claim an author (e.g., Peter in the Apocalypse of Peter) or revolve around a primary figure (e.g., Mary in the Dormition of the Virgin), this text instead focuses on a vow and its vindictive aftermath. Veng. Sav. recounts a somewhat garbled rendition of the 70 CE Siege of Jerusalem, taking its title from the main action in its plot. The ruler Tyrus (renamed Titus after his baptism), upon hearing about Jesus Christ’s unjust execution at the hands of Jerusalem’s citizens, vows “we would have avenged him with the greatest vengeance, and we would be obliged to kill his enemies and hang their bodies on a dry tree, because they took our Lord…” Given this central emphasis on direct physical retribution for the rejection and execution of Christ, especially in the context of its framing accounts of conversion (first Tyrus/Titus, then the emperor Tiberius), it is worth noting that the text is animated by a strong anti-Semitic strain.

Veng. Sav. is set in the days of the emperor Tiberius, when a recently converted Jew, one Nathan son of Naum, is commissioned to levy taxes from Palestine for Rome. On his way back, a storm leaves him lost on the shores of Aquitaine, and he asks for help from Tyrus, a local ruler whose face is deformed by a cancerous growth. He asks whether Nathan knows of any cure for his condition. Nathan replies that the only cure he knows is by the hands of “a chosen prophet, whose name is Jesus Christ,” who was recently crucified in Jerusalem out of the Jews’ jealousy. His summary of Christ’s ministry and passion so stirs Tyrus that he makes the aforementioned vow. No sooner do these words fall from his lips than the cancer falls from his face, and he and his household, taking his healing as a sign, come to faith, and are baptized immediately.

Making good on his vow, the newly christened Titus sends Vespasian and a legion of soldiers to sack Jerusalem. The presence of the Roman army causes the king of Judea (Herod the Great in some versions, his son Archelaus in others) to commit suicide in pre-emptive despair. The eight year siege culminates in mass starvation and devastation. Once the city is yielded, Vespasian’s troops carry out a series of graphic atrocities against the Jews, most of which are inversions of things done to Christ in the canonical gospels. For example, since Christ was crucified, they crucify many Jews upside down; since Christ was sold for 30 pieces of silver, they sell 30 Jews for one; since Christ’s garments were divided in four, they draw and quarter many. Their vengeance also extends to Pilate, who is interrogated and eventually imprisoned in an iron cage in Damascus.

Hereafter, the Romans seek an image of Christ, and are told that one Veronica, who was healed of a twelve year hemorrhage by Christ, has one on the sudarium. Envoys are sent back to Rome to report the success of the venture, and the leprous emperor Tiberius listens intently. He dispatches one Volosianus to fetch a disciple who can heal him, and vows that if he is healed, he will become a Christian. Volosianus then arrives in Palestine, investigates the matter, tortures Veronica, obtains the image of Christ, and returns to Rome after condemning Pilate to death. Tiberius asks for an account and the whole matter is rehearsed again. He sees the image, worships, is healed, believes and is baptized.

Named historical figures and characters: Archelaus, Herod (the Great), Jesus Christ, Joseph of Arimathaea, Lazarus, Nathan (son of Naum), Nicodemus, Pontius Pilate, Simeon, Tiberius, Titus (emperor), Veronica, Vespasian, Volosianus.

Geographical locations: Aquitaine, Burdigala (Bordeaux), Damascus, Jerusalem, Lateran, Libia (possibly Albi in S. France), Rome.


2.1 Visual Art and Iconography

Eustache Marcadé, Mystère de la Vengeance de Nostre Seigneur Ihesu Christ, a lavishly illustrated medieval mystery play incorporating elements of the Vengeance of the Savior (CANT 70), the Healing of Tiberius (CANT 69), the Report of Pontius Pilate (CANT 64), and elements from other Pilate Cycle texts. The work is extant in three manuscripts:

Arras, Médiathèque municipale, 625 (15th cent.)

London, British Library, Add. 89066/1 (volume 1) (ca. 1465)

London, British Library, Add. 89066/1 (volume 2) (ca. 1465)

For additional information and bibliography see Arlima.

Cartlidge, David R. and J.K. Elliot. Art and Christian Apocrypha. London: Routledge, 2001 (fig. 3.2 ‘Veronica holds the sudarium,’ p. 50).

“Saint Veronica: The Iconography.” Christian Iconography (overview of iconography associated with the sudarium.

“Veil of Veronica.” Wikipedia.


 3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

3.1.1 Latin (BHL 4221)

O  Saint-Omer, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 202, fols. 20v–25v (9th cent.)

P  Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS lat. 5327, fols. 55r–61v (10th cent.)

M  Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, O. 35 Sup., fols. 88r–95r (14th cent.)

V  Venice, Biblioteca Marciana, II. 45, fols. 27–34 (15th cent.)

Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 288, fols. 54v–60r (12/13th cent.)

Cross, J. E. Two Old English Apocrypha and their Manuscript Source. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996 (editio princeps of O).

Ehrman, Bart D. and Zlatko Pleše, eds. and trans. The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011 (pp. 537–58).

Tischendorf, Constantin von, ed. Evangelia Apocrypha. Reprint. Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1966 (pp. 471–86). (Based on M and V).

3.1.2 Old English and Latin

Cambridge, University Library, Ii.2.11 (11th cent.)

London, British Library, Cotton Vespasian D.14 (12th cent.)

Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 196 (11th cent.)

Assman, Bruno. “Legende von der Heligen Veronica (Vindicta saluaturis).” Pages 181–94 in Angelsächsische Homilien und Heiligenleben. Edited by Bruno Assman. Bibliothek der angelsächsischen Prosa 3. Kassel: Georg H. Wigand, 1889 (employs Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 196).

Goodwin, C.W. The Anglo-Saxon Legends of St. Andrew and St. Veronica. Cambridge: Macmillan & Co., 1851 (editio princeps of Cambridge, University Library, Ii.2.11 and London, British Library, Cotton Vespasian D.14).

3.1.3 Old French

London, British Library, Add. 10289, fols. 82r–121r (1275–1300)

Ford, A. E., ed., La Vengeance de Nostre-Seigneur: the Old and Middle French Prose Versions; the Version of Japheth. Studies and Texts 63. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984.

3.1.4 Old Irish

McNamara, Martin. The Apocrypha in the Irish Church. Dublin: Institute for Advanced Studies, 1975 (see Digal Fola Crist [The Avenging of Christ’s Blood], p. 80; this version seems to follow Eusebius’ account of the destruction of Jerusalem more, and may represent a different version or tradition entirely).

3.1.5 Old Norse

Wolf, Kirsten. “Lífssaga Pilati in Lbs. 4270 4to.” Proceedings of the PMR Conference 12/13 (1987–1988): 239–62.

3.2 Modern Translations

3.3.1 English

Cowper, B. Harris. The Apocryphal Gospels and Other Documents Relating to the History of Christ. 4th ed. 1867. London: Frederic Norgate, 1874 (pp. 432–47).

Ehrman, Bart D. and Zlatko Pleše, eds. and trans. The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011 (pp. 537–58).

Elliot, J.K. The Apocryphal New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993 (summary and excerpt, pp. 213–16).

Walker, Alexander. Apocryphal Gospels, Acts and Revelations. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1873. Repr. as vol. 16 of The Ante-Nicene Christian Library. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. 24 vols. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1867–1883 (pp. 245–55).

Westcott, Arthur. The Gospel of Nicodemus and Kindred Documents. London: Heath, Cranton & Ouseley, Ltd.,  1915 (pp. 146–59).

3.3.2 French

Besson,G., M. Brossard-Dandré, and Z. Izydorczyk. “Vengeance du Sauveur.” Pages 371–98 in volume 2 of Écrits apocryphes chrétiens. Edited by P. Geoltrain and J.-D. Kaestli. Paris: Gallimard, 2005 (translation based on O, M, P, and V, pp. 371–98).

Migne, Jacques-Paul. Dictionnaire des Apocryphes. 2 vols. 1856. Repr., Turnhout: Brepols, 1989 (vol. 1, cols. 1169–78).

3.3.3 Italian

Erbetta, Mario. Gli apocrifi del Nuovo Testamento. 3 vols. Italy: Marietti, 1975–1981 (vol. 1.2, 388–96).

Moraldi, Luigi. Apocrifi del Nuovo Testamento. 2 vols. Classici delle religioni, Sezione quarta, La religione cattolica 24. Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 1971 (vol. 1, pp. 736–47).

3.3.4 Spanish

De Santos Otero, Aurelio, ed. and trans. Los Evangelios Apócrifos. Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Christianos, 19561, 19793 (3rd ed., pp. 512–32).

González-Blanco, Edmundo. Los Evangelios Apócrifos. Vol. 2. Madrid, 1934 (pp. 343–60).

3.4 General Works

Darley, Étienne. Les Acta Salvatoris: Un évangile de la passion et de la résurrection et une mission apostolique en Aquitaine. Paris: Librairie Alphonse Picard & Fils, 1913.

__________. Les actes du Sauveur, la lettre de Pilate, les missions de Volusien, de Nathan, la Vindicte: Leurs origines et leurs transformations. Paris: Librairie Alphonse Picard & Fils, 1919.

Dobschütz, Ernst von. Christusbilder: Untersuchungen zur christlichen Legende. TU 18. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1899.

Hall, Thomas N. “The Evangelium Nicodemi and Vindicta Salvatoris in Anglo-Saxon England.” Pages 36–81 in Two Old English Apocrypha and their Manuscript Source. Edited by J. E. Cross.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Healey, Antonette di Paolo. “Anglo-Saxon Use of the Apocryphal Gospel.” Pages 93–104 in The Anglo-Saxons: Synthesis and Achievement. Edited by J. D. Woods and D. A. E. Pelteret. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1985.

Izydorczyk, Zbigniew. Manuscripts of the “Evangelium Nicodemi,”A Census. Subsidia Mediaevalia 21. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993.

Szövérffy, Joseph. “Heroic Tales, Medieval Legends, and an Irish Story.” Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 25 (1956): 183–210.

Variot, Jean. Les évangiles apocryphes: Histoire littéraire, forme primitive, transformations. Paris: Berche & Tralin, 1878 (pp. 131–38).