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Joseph of Arimathea

body tomb previously nails

As recounted in all four Gospels, Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man, a prominent and respected member of the Jewish community, who secretly became a disciple of Jesus. After the *Crucifixion, he obtained permission from *Pontius Pilate to bury Jesus’ body, which he did, in an unused tomb he had previously purchased for himself. Joseph of Arimathea thus appears primarily in scenes of the *Deposition and *Entombment of *Christ, helping *Nicodemus take the body down from the *cross (supporting the body while Nicodemus removes the nails), carrying the body to the tomb, and placing the body in the tomb or sarcophagus. Sometimes he is identifiable by his garments, which are more lavish than those of the other disciples. He is usually depicted as an elderly figure, bearded. The twelfth-century English historian Geoffrey of Monmouth credited Joseph of Arimathea with founding, at Saint *Philip’s direction, the first Christian church in England, at Glastonbury, after having journeyed to Gaul with *Mary Magdalene and Lazarus . Additions to this story recount that, at the Crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea collected Christ’s blood in the chalice previously used at the *Last Supper. This is the *Holy Grail, which Joseph buried at Glastonbury. He thus also features in the illustrated *Arthurian legends, which were especially popular in the Gothic period. He may also be recognized by his attributes: the chalice, crown of thorns, nails, and shroud of Christ.
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