As far as we know Claudia Procula was the granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus. She had been born in rather dubious circumstances to Claudia the third wife of Tiberius. However the young Claudia Procula was deemed a good girl by her grandfather who had her live in Rome under his guardianship.
Meanwhile the politically savvy and utterly corrupt Sejanus had grabbed the power of Rome sending the paranoid Emperor to live in isolation and continued fear on the island of Capri.
With the whole Empire in his hands Sejanus set about handing over nice little titles and places of work to his personal cronies. Most of these men had reputations as vicious and corrupt, and it has to be said that Sejanus friend Pontius Pilate of the Equestrian rank fitted the bill nicely.
It seems as though Claudia was married off to Pilate to help solidify his political possition and then he was given the Governorship of Judea, arriving there with his wife in about 26 AD. It has been suggested that as Claudia actually accompanied her husband rather than staying in Rome, that their marriage was a happy one. Legend has it that they had a son Pilo who was disabled in some way, and was apparently healed in the Church.
If that had been the sum of Claudia’s life, she would have been a mere footnote in obscure history, but the thing that brought her just a little more attention was the dream she had one fine siesta around Passover in the year 33AD (ish). She dreamed something about a Jewish rabbi who was behaving and speaking as though he was King of the Jews.
The High Priest who had very coincidentally remained in power while Pilate was there had the man in question standing for trial. Claudia sent a message to her husband begging him to have nothing to do with the man on trial because of the dream she had just had.
Pilate obviously valued his wife’s opinion and must have taken her dream seriously because he spent a great deal of effort trying not to have this Jesus of Nazareth crucified. But in end he had to agree to it all.
Pilate had Christ’s title written on the board for the cross; Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews and he refused to change it. He then went on to break with the normal treatment of crucified criminal in allowing a relation of Christ’s, Joseph of Arimathea and his friend Nicodemus to receive the body for proper entombment.
While some of Pilate’s caution may have been to do with his shaky political position under Sejanus at this point, there is pretty well grounded speculation that Claudia Procula encouraged her husband to behave the way he did.
The Vatican Archives have a first century letter that was apparently written by Claudia. It was found in a monastery in Belgium and has been translated into English.
From the Gospel of Nicodemus and Acts of Pilate, apocryphal books, it is suggested that Claudia was baptised and became a follower of st Paul.
The implication is that she separated from Pilate, and served God with the other women. She is a saint in the Eastern Orthodox churches and her feast day is today,.
But there is also a story that suggests Pilate was also baptised and was even martyred. His is a saint in the Coptic church alongside his wife.
We will probably never get to the whole story of Claudia Procula, but I think it’s fair to say that traditions often have a huge amount of truth to them.
Claudia Procula’s feast day is today.