the Second Week of Advent
Click to donate today!
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
Acel´dama (field of blood), the field purchased with the money for which Judas betrayed Christ, and which was appropriated as a place of burial for strangers (Matthew 27:8; Acts 1:19). It was previously 'a potter's field.' The field now shown as Aceldama lies on the slope of the hills beyond the valley of Hinnom, south of Mount Zion. Sandys thus writes of it: 'On the south side of this valley, neere where it meeteth with the valley of Jehoshaphat, mounted a good height on the side of the mountain, is Aceldama, or the field of blood, purchased with the restored reward of treason, for a buriall place for strangers. In the midst whereof a large square roome was made by the mother of Constantine; the south side, walled with the naturall rocke; flat at the top, and equall with the upper level; out of which ariseth certaine little cupoloes, open in the midst to let doune the dead bodies. Thorow these we might see the bottome, all couered with bones, and certaine corses but newly let doune, it being now the sepulchre of the Armenians. A greedy graue, and great enough to deuoure the dead of a whole nation. For they say (and I believe it) that the earth thereof within the space of eight and forty houres will consume the flesh that is laid thereon.' He then relates the common story, that the empress referred to, caused 270 ship-loads of this flesh-consuming mould to be taken to Rome, to form the soil of the Campo Santo, to which the same virtue is ascribed. Castela affirms that great quantities of the wondrous mould were removed by divers Christian princes in the time of the Crusades, and to this source assigns the similar sarcophagic properties claimed not only by the Campo Santo at Rome, but by the cemetery of St. Innocents at Paris, by the cemetery at Naples, and, we may add, that of the Campo Santo at Pisa.
The plot of ground originally bought 'to bury strangers in,' seems to have been early set apart by the Latins, as well as by the Crusaders, as a place of burial for pilgrims. In the fourteenth century it belonged to the Knights-Hospitallers. Early in the seventeenth century it was in the possession of the Armenians, who bought it for the burial of their own pilgrims. The erection of the charnel-house is ascribed to them. In the time of Maundrell they rented it at a sequin a day from the Turks. Corpses were still deposited there; and the traveler observes that they were in various stages of decay, from which he conjectures that the grave did not make that quick dispatch with the bodies committed to it which had been reported. 'The earth, hereabouts,' he observes, 'is of a chalky substance; the plot of ground was not above thirty yards long by fifteen wide; and a moiety of it was occupied by the charnel-house, which was twelve yards high.' Richardson affirms that bodies were thrown in as late as 1818; but Dr. Robinson alleges that it has the appearance of having been for a much longer time abandoned: 'The field or plat is not now marked by any boundary to distinguish it from the rest of the hill-side; and the former charnel-house, now a ruin, is all that remains to point out the site…. An opening at each end enabled us to look in; but the bottom was empty and dry, excepting a few bones much decayed.'
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Aceldama'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​a/aceldama.html.