Amazing info about incredible holy relics from Christianityʼs great age of faith.
According to Austin Cline at about.com: The power and popularity of relics in Medieval Europe was dependent upon the saintliness of the original “owner.”
The ultimate source of relics, of course, was Jesus himself. But there was just one problem: it is clear in the New Testament that after his resurrection, Jesus was “carried up to Heaven.” Thus, there just wasnʼt any possibility of a church acquiring Jesusʼ head or foot, as happened with various saints. For the most part, the only Jesus relics available were things like his crown of thorns, his robe, his sandals, or even pieces of the “True Cross.”
But then some astute theologian — or was it a businessman? — realized that not all of Jesusʼ body could have been actually transported up to Heaven. Jesus was, after all, a faithful Jew, and as such, he would have been circumcised like every other boy. So where was his foreskin? Whatever happened to that bit of divine flesh?
And thus began a search for a very odd “Holy Grail” which resulted in not one, but up to a dozen different holy foreskins, each competing to be the genuine article. Of course, one presumes that they could not all be genuine and I am not aware of anyone who tried to argue that the unusual bounty was a miracle akin to the loaves and fishes.
In France, Charroux claimed that they inherited their foreskin from Charlemagne. In the early twelfth century they took it to Rome and paraded it through the streets alongside one of those pieces of the True Cross and Jesusʼ sandals, bringing them before Pope Innocent III.
At the same time, however, the parish of Calcata north of Rome also claimed to possess Jesusʼ foreskin. Then there was the abbey of Coulombos in the diocese of Chartres claiming that they were the owners of the True Foreskin. Other claimants included Puy, Metz, Anvers, the church of Notre-Dame-en-Vaux, and Hildersheim.
It shouldnʼt be surprising that all of these strongly disputed the claims of everyone else. Pope Innocent III decided not to become involved and refused to judge who was right. According to him, only God could know the truth about such a “delicate” matter. Itʼs probably better for his legacy that he didnʼt become involved — who would want to become known as the Foreskin Pope?
Imagine what it would have been like had they chosen to rule on the issue! Can you see them peering into the reliquaries, attempting to determine if the foreskin before them was from Jesusʼ or just some leperʼs? By what standards would they have made their judgments? Sight? Texture? Smell? Unfortunately, the popeʼs reluctance to become involved just led to the “discovery” of several more “real” foreskins.
In the end, it was Charroux who “won” the battle of the foreskins when Pope Clement VII (1523-1534) issued a bull granting indulgences to any and all who made a pilgrimage to the Charroux foreskin. Just think — you could have sins forgiven by God just for getting a glimpse at a bit of severed genitalia!
But then tragedy struck: the foreskin went missing! The relic disappeared from Charroux for centuries and was thought to have been stolen. What kind of a sicko would steal a foreskin? (Of course, the same could be asked of anyone who would display one for money.)
Then, in 1856, a lucky workman discovered the reliquary hidden inside a wall, perhaps put there to protect it during the many religious wars. I wonder if that workman had his sins forgiven for the discovery? Nineteenth century Catholics hadnʼt grown out of their taste for relics, and a new church was built to house the tiny ringlet of flesh. Monsignor Pie, who spoke at the dedication ceremony, informed the excited crowd that if they looked closely, they could still see a bit of coagulated blood on the holy flesh.
For some strange reason, however, the Vatican grew less and less supportive of relics, particularly foreskins. In 1900 the Vatican suggested that foreskins encouraged “irreverent curiosity” and that, somehow, this was a bad thing. Generally the foreskin fever died down with the lack of official encouragement, although it didnʼt disappear entirely. One church in Italy kept up the worship right through the 1980s — and each year the relic was exposed to the adoring crowds during the Feast of the Circumcision. (I wonder — what was served?)
But in 1983, thieves broke in and stole the 300 year-old jewel-encrusted reliquary and the holy flesh it contained. Presumably they only wanted the case — but what on earth did they do with the foreskin? Is it sitting in someoneʼs basement right now?
Maybe Steven Spielberg should look upon this as a movie idea: Indiana Jones and the Quest for the Holy Foreskin!
See Also Wikipediaʼs Article, “Holy Prepuce.”
A 14Th Century Miracle Of The Holy Foreskin
The story of St. Blannbekin (died in Vienna 1315); (Zilchʼs translation from a book in German located here.)
“This person [Agnes Blannbekin] had the habit, starting almost in childhood, to weep profoundly at the Feast of the Circumcision, touched to the heart by the blood spent by Christ, who deigned to suffer so early…. Thus she started to wonder, where the prepuce might be. And lo and behold! Soon she felt a little skin on her tongue, like the skin of an egg, full of great sweetness, and she gulped it down. Hardly had she swallowed it, when she felt the little skin again, and so she swallowed it once more. And she did so a good hundred times…. And it was revealed to her, that on the Day of Resurrection the prepuce was also resurrected. So great was the sweetness when she swallowed this little skin, that in all her limbs and in all the muscles of her limbs she felt a sweet transformation…”
St. Agnesʼ confessor added after this chapter the note:
“I was greatly comforted, that the Lord would reveal himself to people this way, and burned to hear more.”
They Cut Off His Thing
(sung to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music)
by Alex Murphy
They didnʼt save blood
that He sweat in the Garden
Or teardrops in temples
For Jewish hearts hardened,
No skin off His back from the Roman scourging
But they saved skin that was cut off of His thing
His first baby teeth
No oneʼs tried to fence ʻem
No first diaper movements
on eBay for ransom,
No babyʼs first zwieback, spit up on Mary
But they saved skin, cut off during His bris
Every nose hair
Each ounce of earwax
Drool by the gallon, man!
Each burst of methane from out of His being
It came from the Son of Man!
Psoriasis that fell from atop His melon
His fingerprints, taken by Romans (a felon)
Each Relic demands veneration, ka-ching!
Especially skin that was cut off of His thing
Dried up kleenexes
And half-eaten matzos
A Holy Quest is on for
His baby bottles
Dirt from the bath when He left a scum ring
If it fell off Him, itʼs a Holy thing
Sand from his eyes
Every picked off scab
Just get a receipt when you turn in some meat
The foreskin will be so glad
In Case Jesusʼs Foreskin Wasnʼt Relic-Enough For You… Thereʼs These
Two of the relics that the Patriarch of Jerusalem gave to King Charlemagne and that recall “with profound reverence events in the history of salvation,” include fragments of the newborn Jesusʼ diapers, and the cloth Jesus wore around his waist on the cross, both of which one might presume to have once contained remnants of Jesusʼs feces. See this article:
Catholic Communities Have Unique Link With Rome And Jerusalem
John Paul IIʼs Letter for 1,200 Years of Aachen Cathedral
VATICAN CITY, JAN 31 (ZENIT)-- John Paul II referred to the ties that unite the Catholic community spread over the world with the Church of Rome and the Holy City of Jerusalem, in a letter to commemorate 1,200 years since the construction of Aachen Cathedral, an event which was celebrated last Saturday and Sunday in this historic German locality. The Popeʼs special envoy to the celebration was Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. The Holy Father addressed the letter to Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff of Aachen. John Paul II pointed out that the Cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin, was built at the request of Charlemagne. That same year, 800, the emperor was crowned in Rome by Pope Leo III in the Vatican Basilica. This historical event reflects the closeness that existed between that local Church and the diocese of Rome. But Aachen Cathedral has yet “another link” that carries it “with heart and mind” to the Holy City. These are 4 precious relics that Jerusalem gave to Charlemagne and that recall “with profound reverence events in the history of salvation.” The 4 relics are fragments of the newborn Jesusʼ diapers, the cloth Jesus wore around his waist on the cross, the dress Mary wore on Christmas Eve, and the cloth of John the Baptistʼs beheading.
Selections From An Official Catalog Of Relics From Pre-Protestant Germany
The Castle Church at Wittenberg, where Martin Luther probably posted his ninety-five theses, was famous for its extensive collection of relics, as the following excerpt from what might be called the official catalogue shows:
“… Three pieces of the city where the Virgin Mary was born. One piece of a yarn which she spun. One piece of the house where she lived at the age of fourteen. Two pieces of the city of Mt Zion where Mary lived. Two pieces of the room where Mary was greeted by the angel. Five particles of the milk of the Virgin Mary. One piece of the tree where Mary nursed the Lord near the Garden of Balsam. Four pieces of the hair of Mary. Three pieces of the shirt of Mary. Three pieces of one robe of Mary. Eight pieces of other robes of Mary. Four pieces of the belt of Mary. Seven pieces of the veil of Mary. Two pieces of the veil of Mary which was sprinkled with the blood of Christ under the Cross. One piece of the city where Mary died. One piece of the wax candle given to Our Lady when she died. Six pieces of the grave of Mary. Two pieces of the earth of the grave of Mary. One piece of the place where Mary ascended into heaven.
VI. A silver picture of the little baby Jesus. Four pieces of the city where the Lord Jesus was born. One piece of the diaper in which he was wrapped. Thirteen pieces of the manger of Jesus. One piece of the cradle. Two pieces of the hay. One piece of the straw on which the Lord lay when he was born. One piece of the gold and of the myrrh which the Three Kings offered unto the Lord. One piece of the city where the Lord Jesus was circumcised.
VII. Four pieces of the mountain on which the Lord Jesus fasted. Two pieces of the city where Christ preached the Lordʼs Prayer. One piece of the stone on which Jesus stood while weeping over Jerusalem. One piece of the stone from which Christ got on the donkey. Two pieces of the ground where the Lord Christ was arrested.
VIII. Five pieces of the table on which the Lord Christ held the Last Supper with his disciples. One piece of the bread of which Christ ate with his disciples during the Last Supper.
IX. One piece of the land which was bought for the thirty pieces of silver for which Christ was betrayed. One piece of the Holy Land. Three pieces of the stone where the Lord sweated blood. One piece of the ground where the Lord sweated blood. One piece of the stone sprinkled with the blood of Christ.
X. Three pieces of the Mount of Olives and of the rod of Aaron. Two pieces of the rod of Moses. One piece of the burning bush which Moses saw. One piece of an object sprinkled with the blood of Christ. Eleven pieces of Mount Calvary. Two pieces of the Mount of Olives. XI. One piece of the cloth with which the Lord wiped his disciplesʼ feet. One piece of the robe of Christ: One piece of the seamless robe of Christ. One piece of the robe of Christ. One piece of his purple robe. Two pieces of the cloth which St Veronica received from the Lord. Three pieces of the white robe in which the Lord was ridiculed by Herod . Three pieces of the cloth with which our Lordʼs holy eyes were blindfolded. One piece of the beard of the Lord Jesus.
XII. One piece of the wax of the candles which touched the sudarium of Christ. One piece of the wedge with which the cross of Christ was held. Three pieces of the stone on which the cross stood. Three pieces of the place where the cross of Christ was found. Twelve pieces of the column where the Lord Christ was scourged and flogged.
The Eight Aisle. I. One piece of the rope with which Jesus was tied. Three pieces of the rod with which the Lord Jesus was scourged. Three pieces of the whip with which the Lord Jesus was flogged. One piece of the stone upon which the Lord Jesus sat when he was crowned. One piece of the stone which was crushed while the Lord carried the cross. One piece of the sponge with which the Lord was given vinegar and gall….
III. Two pieces of the crown of the Lord Jesus. Eight complete thorns of the crown of the Lord Jesus. IV. One large piece of one nail which was driven through the hands or feet of the Lord Jesus. V. A thorn which wounded the holy head of the Lord Jesus.
VI. One piece of the holy cross….
VII. Three pieces of the holy cross.
VIII. Three pieces of the three kinds of wood of the cross of Christ.
IX. A particularly large piece from the holy cross.
X. Twenty-five pieces of the holy cross.
XI. One piece of the stone which lay on the grave of Christ. Twenty-two pieces of the grave of Christ. One piece of the stone from which Christ descended into heaven.
XII. A casket lined with silver in which are found sixteen hundred and seventy-eight pieces. Seventy-six pieces of holy remains. Bones from holy places which on account of faded writing can no longer be read and identified. All in all : five thousand and five pieces. An indulgence of one hundred days for each piece. There are eight halls and each hall has an indulgence of one hundred and one days in addition. Blessed are those who participate therein.
Source: Hans J. Hillerbrand, ed. The Reformation: A Narrative History Related by Contemporary Observers and Participants (Harper and Row, Inc. 1964, Reprint Baker Book House, 1978) pp. 47-49.
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