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The Antonia Fortress - The Place of Jesus' Trial

According to later Church tradition the Praetorium was here at the Antonia Fortress where Pontius Pilate judged Jesus, but it is also possible that Jesus was judged at the Herodian fortress on the opposite end (NW) of the city near the modern Jaffa Gate. Herod's palace was the official residence of the Roman procurator's when they came to Jerusalem during the major Jewish festivals.

Many scholars favor the Antonia Fortress because of the balconies overlooking the Temple Court. There is also mention in John 19:13 of "the pavement" as the site of the trial.

The Via Dolorosa assumes that the Antonia Fortress is the site of the trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate.

The statements of Josephus are very convincing that the headquarters of the Roman procurator were at Herod's palace. See International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

The Bible also mentions that Paul the Apostle was arrested in the Temple Court where the angry Jewish mob tried to kill him. He asked for permission to speak to the crowd from the steps leading up from the Court of the Gentiles into the barracks of the Antonia Fortress (Acts 21:31-22:29). When Paul stood before the Council the following day he once again needed to be rescued and was taken up the stairs into the barracks (Acts 22:30-23:10). The soldiers later took him secretly at night from the Antonia Fortress to Caesarea (Acts 23:23-35).

(See Catholic Encyclopedia - Praetorium)

(And International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Praetorium)


The Fortress of Antonia was partly surrounded by a deep ravine 165 feet wide. It functioned as headquarters for the Roman soldiers, a palace and a barracks. Herod constructed a secret passage from the fortress to the Temple and Josephus described that this is where Aristobulus was killed.

The Fortress of Antonia was built on a rock hill, which was much higher than the Temple area (75 feet), on the northwest side. The castleís 4 walls were interesting:
The western wall was built upon the edge of the cliff overlooking the Tyropoeon Valley.
The north wall was directly across the hill Bezetha and there was a deep mote between them. The rock hid the Temple from view on this side according to Josephus.
The southern wall one could see over the entire Temple area.
The eastern wall overlooked the Pool of Bethesda and the Kidron Valley.

Josephus is the authoritative source for the description of the Antonia Fortress and he wrote about its interior. It is described as a small city, a palace for a king and a barracks for many soldiers. There were apartments, cloisters, baths and large courtyards. There were also stairs that led down from the Fortress to the porticoes of the Temple court at the extreme north side. It is also written that there was a deep passageway underground, which went from the fortress to the Court of Israel, mainly for uprisings and emergencies.

When Titus initiated his extreme assault into the Temple area it was from the Antonia Fortress.

The Northwest Corner of the Temple (see picture below).

These photos are from an archaeological reproduction of first century Jerusalem, located in Jerusalem.


The Fortress of Antonia was built in 35 B.C. and named in honor of Herodís friend and Roman Triumvir Marcus Antonius also known as Mark Antony. It was actually Mark Anthony who had requested that the Senate make Herod King of Judea as an eastern boundary to the Roman Empire. At some point the Romans took over the Antonia Fortress and placed a garrison there.

Titus Vespasian attacked the city of Jerusalem from the north side in 70 A.D. and overcame it. The legions of Rome slaughtered over a million Jews and 95,000 Jewish captives were taken away as prisoners.