Tell the Easter story through National Gallery paintings
Issued 6 April 2020
The story of the events leading up to and following the Crucifixion is known as the Passion of Christ.
To celebrate Easter discover the story of the Passion, told through paintings in the National Gallery Collection. Follow the links below to view the paintings online or take a virtual stroll of the Sainsbury Wing to discover more about the collection of early paintings in the Gallery.
Easter is one of the most important festivals in the Christian calendar. It celebrates Christ’s resurrectionon the third day after his crucifixion. Most Christians refer to the week before Easter as Holy Week, including Maundy Thursday (commemorating the Washing of the Feet), the Last Supper, and Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
The date of Easter Sunday varies from year to year. In 2020 Easter Sunday is on 12 April.
This is the Sunday before Easter Sunday.
It is the first day of Holy Week and celebrates Jesus's arrival in Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Crowds of people came out of the city to greet him, throwing down palm branches on the road. After this came the second Purification of the Temple (Matthew 21: 12–13) where Jesus drove the traders out of the Temple in Jerusalem, accusing them of turning a house of prayer into a den of thieves.
This is the Thursday before Easter Sunday.
On Maundy Thursday Christians remember when Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples, breaking bread and drinking wine. Christians refer to this meal as the Last Supper.
That Passover meal was when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in an extraordinary display of humility. He then commanded them to do the same for each other.
Maundy is derived from the Latin word mandatum, meaning a commandment. Jesus, at the Last Supper, commanded: 'And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.' John 13:34
Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday. It commemorates the execution of Jesus by crucifixion.
Good Friday is a day of mourning in church. During special Good Friday services Christians remember Jesus's suffering and death on the cross, and what this means for their faith.
Easter Sunday marks Jesus's resurrection. After Jesus was crucified on the Friday his body was taken down from the cross and buried in a cave tomb. The tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers and an enormous stone was put over the entrance.
On Sunday Mary Magdalene and some of Jesus's disciples visited the tomb. They found the stone had been moved and that Jesus's body had gone. Jesus was seen later that day by Mary and the disciples, and for 40 days afterwards by many people. His followers realised that God had raised Jesus from the dead.