The Robe

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The Robe is a 1942 historical novel about the Crucifixion written by Lloyd C. Douglas. The book was one of the best-selling titles of the 1940s. It entered the New York Times Best Seller list in October 1942, and four weeks later rose to No. 1. It held the position for nearly a year. The Robe remained on the list for another two years, returning several other times over the next several years including when the movie version was released in 1953.



Lloyd C. Douglas began his literary career after leaving the ministry at the age of 52. All of his novels, essays, and short stories relied on his spiritual background for thematic and creative inspiration. At the height of his popularity, Douglas was receiving on average 100 letters a week from fans. One of these letters provided the inspiration for The Robe. Hazel McCann, a department store clerk from Ohio, wrote to Douglas asking what he thought had happened to Christ's garments after the crucifixion. Douglas immediately began working on a novel based on this concept, sending each chapter to McCann as he finished it. Douglas and McCann finally met in 1941, and it is to her that Douglas has dedicated the book.[1]


The book explores the aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus through the experiences of Marcellus Gallio, the Roman tribune who commanded the unit in charge of Jesus' crucifixion. Prince Gaius sends Marcellus to take command of the Roman garrison at Minoa, a port city in southern Palestine. Marcellus is accompanied by his slave Demetrius.

Marcellus and some other soldiers throw dice to see who will take Jesus' Robe. Marcellus wins and asks Demetrius to take care of the Robe. Following the crucifixion, Marcellus takes part in a banquet attended by Pontius Pilate. During the banquet, a drunken centurion insists that Marcellus wear Jesus' Robe.

Marcellus goes on a journey, following the path Jesus took and meets many people whose lives Jesus had affected. Through this journey, both the tribune and the reader are challenged to explore their faith and question various norms they have embraced all their life.

The film

Despite its impressive run in publication, The Robe is more familiar today as a 1953 Biblical epic film that tells the story of a Roman tribune named Marcellus Gallio who commands the unit that crucifies Jesus Christ.


"The Robe" (1953) composed by Alfred Newman conducting the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra (Varese Sarabande VSD 5295)


  • John Bear, The #1 New York Times Best Seller: Intriguing facts about the 484 books that have been #1 New York Times bestsellers since the first list, 50 years ago, Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1992

External links

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