It is said that the following once took place at Rome: A wagon loaded with stones was crossing a solitary spot in the country when one of the wheels sank into the ground and it was impossible to extricate it for some time. Finally they got it out, but there remained a large hole that opened into a dark room under ground. “Who wishes to descend into this hole?” “I,” said the carter. They soon procured a rope and lowered the carter into the dark room. We will suppose that this carter’s name was Master Francis. Well, then, Master Francis, when he was let down, turned to the right and saw a door, which he opened, and found himself in darkness that you could cut. He turned to the left, the same; he went forward, the same; he turned once more and when he opened the door what did he see? He saw a man seated before a table; before him, pen, ink, and a written paper that he was reading; and when he finished it he began over again, and never raised his eyes from the paper. Master Francis, who was of incomparable courage, went up to him and said: “Who are you?”
The man made no answer, but continued to read. “Who are you?” said Master Francis again; but not a word. The third time, the man said: “Turn around, open your shirt, and I will write who I am on your back. When you leave this place, go to the Pope and make him read who I am. Remember, however, that the Pope alone must read it.” Master Francis turned about, opened his shirt, the man wrote on his back, and then sat down again. Master Francis was courageous, it is true; but he was not made of wood, and in that moment he was frightened to death. He fixed his shirt and then asked: “How long have you been here?” but could get no answer from him. Seeing that it was time lost to question him, he gave the signal to those outside and was drawn up. When they saw him they did not recognize him; he had grown entirely white and seemed like an old man of ninety. “What was it? What happened?” they all began to say. “Nothing, nothing,” he replied; “take me to the Pope, for I must confess.” Two of those who were present conducted him to the Pope. When he was with him he related what had happened and taking off his shirt, said to him: “Read, your Holiness!” His Holiness read: “I Am Pilate.” And as he uttered these words the poor carter became a statue. And it is said that that man was Pilate, who was condemned to stay in a cave, always reading the sentence that he had pronounced on Jesus Christ, without ever being able to take his eyes from the paper. This is the story of Pilate who is neither saved nor damned.