, and Rome. [94:6] Surely the Christians who venerated this obscene relic were far sunk in the slough of superstition, and it may be doubted whether the most ignorant Polytheists ever condescended to worship the prepuce of a god.
There is an amusing story of this curious article in an anonymous though very able book, published in 1761, on the Portuguese Inquisition.
"Sandoval, the Spanish bishop, twice before referred to, relates, as incontestable fact, in his life of the emperor Charles V., that the real Santo Prepucio was kept at Rome, and fell, among other things, into the hands of some soldiers, when the Duke of Bourbon's army plundered that city; that it would not suffer itself to be touched by such profane wretches; upon which, one, more penetrating than the rest, beginning to suspect the truth, sent for a pure virgin, in order to make trial of its virtue, when it readily expanded. This precious relic seems to have been lost, amidst the confusion, but was soon replaced, by the same kind of angels, no doubt, who brought the holy house of Loretto." [94:7]
It should be added that at least one Catholic writer has devoted a treatise to the Savior's foreskin, asserting that it ascended, like Jesus himself, and expanded into one of the rings of Saturn. [94:8]
Calvin, who was much better employed in exposing Catholic superstitions than in elaborating the creed which dooms babies not a span long to crawl on the floor of hell, suggested that there should be an inventory of relics. Such a document would have saved us much trouble, and we sincerely deplore its absence, for there are no doubt many interesting articles that have escaped our research, although we have still a long list to enumerate.
The Virgin Mary's girdle was carefully preserved, yet we are not informed whether it was the one unloosed by Gabriel or a later portion of her apparel. Her stockings, her shoes, and two of her combs also existed, being heard of for the first time some five hundred years after her death. Even her wedding ring was shown to the faithful! Her handkerchief with which it was alleged that a blind boy's sight had been restored, was included in the 7,421 relics collected by Philip the Second of Spain, and preserved in 515 beautifully wrought shrines. The vouchers for the cures it operated were written in Spanish; and Aldrete, the antiquary, narrowly escaped being burnt for saying that the Spanish language did not exist in the first century. [95:9]
In the Lateran at Rome are two pillars from Pilate's house, and the twenty-eight marble steps which led up to it. They were brought by Helena from Jerusalem, and no one is allowed to ascend them except on his knees. At Turin is shown the linen sheet in which Joseph of Arimathaea wrapt the body of Jesus. Sir John Maundeville, the alleged mediaeval traveller, asserts that he saw at Bethlehem the charnel-house where lie the bones of the Innocents. John the Baptist's head, a portion of which we have encountered among the relics purchased by Louis the Ninth, was discovered, according to Sozomen, [95:1] in the year 391, but it was found again long afterwards in another place, and in the course of ages the skull of this cousin of Christ was exhibited at Amiens, at Lyons, at Morienne, at Angely, at Rome, in Spain, in Germany, and in many other places. The keeper of the St. Amiens relic protested that his was the genuine head, and, in proof of his assertion, he bade the pilgrims to note the hole in the skull over the right eye, which was the very hole Herodias made with a knife when the head was brought to her in a charger. [95:2] The body of Baptist John, according to Theodoret, was buried in a Syrian village; but the grave was opened by the Pagans soon after, and his bones were burnt and scattered in the air. Eusebius adds that some men from Jerusalem, passing by, took and concealed some of the saintly dust, which was conveyed to Antioch and there buried by St. Athanasius in a wall! But miracles are not subject to ordinary laws, and in the course of time the Baptist's body pullulated in Europe. The finger with which he pointed to Jesus as his greater successor was shown, in a fair state of preservation, at Besancon, Toulouse, Lyons, Bourges, Macon, and several other places. [96:3]
The tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul were distinguished, as Gibbon ironically says, early in the third century, if we may trust the history of Eusebius. After the conversion of Constantine, their bones were "deposited under the altars of Christ," and devoutly visited by "the emperors, the consuls and the generals of armies." [96:4] In the seventh century "their genuine or fictitious relics were adored as the Palladium of Christian Rome."
"The pilgrims of the East and West resorted to the holy threshold; but the shrines of the apostles were guarded by miracles and invisible terrors, and it was not without fear that the pious Catholic approached the object of his worship. It was fatal to touch, it was dangerous to behold, the bodies of the saints; and those who, from the purest motives, presumed to disturb the repose of the sanctuary, were affrighted by visions or punished with sudden death." [96:5]
But there were still more astonishing relics of these great apostles. A piece of the broiled fish which Peter offered his Master was preserved in the time of Calvin, who observed that "it must have been wondrous well salted, if it has kept for such a long series of ages." [96:6] Paul's chain was also long preserved, filings from it being dispensed by Gregory the Great; and, as Gibbon remarks, "the pontifical smith who handled the file must have understood the miracles which it was in his power to operate or withhold." This fabulous memento of Paul's captivity appears to have resembled the true cross in its power of reproduction, for, "the particles of holy iron were inserted in keys or crosses of gold, and distributed in Britain, Gaul, Spain, Africa, Constantinople and Egypt." [97:7] The bodies of Peter and Paul were both at Rome with their two heads. Yet Poictiers boasted of Peter's jawbone and beard, and Argenton a shoulder of Paul, while several bones of each were preserved elsewhere. [97:8]
The remains of Timothy were brought from Ephesus, and those of St. Andrew and St. Luke from Achaia, to Constantinople in A.D. 356. After a repose of three hundred years they were transported, in solemn pomp, to the Church of the Apostles which was founded by Constantine; "and thus," says Jortin, "began the carrying of relics from place to place, and the invention of ten thousand lies concerning the wonders wrought by the dead; all which must have greatly scandalized the Pagans." [97:9]
The discovery of St. Stephen's remains is called by Tillemont one of the principal events of the fifth century; and "take it altogether," says Jortin, "it is perhaps one of the most barefaced and impudent impostures that ever were obtruded upon the Christian world." The coffins of St. Stephen, Nicodemus, Gamaliel, and Abdias, were found together. The three minor corpses were left to their repose, but "the relics of the first martyr were transported, in solemn procession, to a church constructed in their honor on Mount Zion; and the minute particles of those relics, a drop of blood, or the scrapings of a bone, were acknowledged, in almost every province of the Roman world, to possess a divine and miraculous virtue." [97:1] St. Augustine enumerates above seventy miracles wrought by them in his own diocese within the space of two years, of which three were resurrections from the dead. "Whoever," says a Gallic or Spanish proverb, "pretends to have read all the miracles of St. Stephen, he lies." His whole body was at Rome, but his head was also at Arles, and his bones in more than a hundred different places. The very stones with which he was killed were shown in a dozen churches, the Carmelite monks of Poictiers even using them to assist women in labor. [98:2] A phial of St. Stephen's blood used to liquefy annually at Naples on the third of August, but when Gregory the Thirteenth corrected the calendar, it did not liquefy until the thirteenth of August, on which the festival of the saint was fixed by the new regulation. [98:3] St. Stephen has since been superseded by St. Januarius, whose blood still liquefies every year like his predecessor's.
The body of St. Barnabas was found, by revelation, at Cyprus, with the gospel of St. Matthew in Greek upon his breast, transcribed with his own hand. [98:4] The grave of St. John at Ephesus, was not rifled, being miraculous enough already, since it moved up and down to show that he was alive and breathing, in fulfilment of Christ's supposed prophecy that the beloved disciple should not die before the second advent. His cassock, however, and the chain with which he was bound, when led prisoner from Ephesus, were both preserved; and the cup from which he was fabled to have drunk poison, by the order of Domitian, was shown at Boulogne and at Rome. [98:5]
In the course of time Old Testament characters made their appearance. After lying in the grave about twelve hundred years, the prophet Zechariah was discovered in a fine state of preservation, with a golden crown, golden shoes, and a magnificent robe; altogether, a far more gorgeous figure than any Jewish prophet ever was in his lifetime. The still more ancient remains of Samuel were found in A.D. 406, and removed from Judea to Constantinople by Arcadius, who is highly commended for this pious action by Jerome. [98:6] Samuel appears to have been less entire than Zechariah, for his ashes were deposited in a golden vase, which was covered with a silken veil, and passed from the hands of one bishop to those of another. The highways from Palestine to Constantinople were crowded as the prophet's relics passed to their destination; and the Emperor himself, with the most illustrious members of the clergy and the senate, advanced to meet his extraordinary guest. [99:7] After this we need not start at Adam's skull being found at Golgotha; at Abel's tomb, on the road to Baalbec, being thirty yards long; or at the tombs of Eve, Seth and Noah being respectively two hundred paces, sixty feet, and a hundred and twenty feet long.
A host of other relics, defying classification, were spread over the face of Europe. Aaron's rod was shown in three places, at Paris, Rome, and Bordeaux. The bones of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were also at Rome. Susannah's corpse was at Rome and likewise at Toulouse. There were two corpses of St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, besides two separate heads, and over a hundred limbs. St. Ursula was divided between Rome, Cologne, Mans, Tours, and Bergerat; while the bones of her eleven thousand virgins were shown in large quantities, sometimes to the extent of a cartload, in half the churches in Christendom. St. Andrew was at Rome, but conveniently dispersed among the various churches, his head being in one, a shoulder in a second, a side in a third, and an arm in a fourth, while an extra foot was preserved at Aix. St. Anthony's arm was shown in one city; it was enshrined and the pilgrims kissed and adored it; but eventually it turned out to be an unmentionable part of a stag. [99:8] The skin of St. Bartholomew was at Pisa. St. Denis who, when his head was cut off, carried it under his arm, must have had two bodies, for France and Germany boasted one each. The body of St. Lawrence was at Rome, where was exhibited, in addition, a piece of his flesh roasted in his martyrdom, as well as two phials filled, the one with his blood and the other with his fat. His arms and bones were also kept in other places, while one church showed the identical gridiron on which he was broiled. There were three bodies of Lazarus, at Marseilles, at Autun, and at Avalon. Two bodies of his sister Mary were shown at different churches, besides several fragments in various other places. Her head was exhibited at St. Maximin, bearing the noli me tangere which was declared to have been put there by Jesus when she approached him in the garden after his resurrection. Three bodies of St. Matthias existed, besides a spare arm and head. At the church of St. Julien, at Tours, which was much resorted to by pilgrims, they displayed the sword and shield with which St. Michael fought the Devil; while at Rome they displayed the instrument with which Peter cut off the ear of Malchus. Of St. Sebastian four bodies were exhibited, besides two heads and four arms. At Genoa they showed the tail of the ass on which Christ rode into Jerusalem. [100:9] The caul of the baby Jesus was at Rome, and also the navel of St. Joseph. Some of St. Joseph's breath, which an angel enclosed in a phial, was long adored in France, afterwards at Venice, and finally at Rome. St. Apollonia's teeth abounded, and were deemed efficacious against the toothache, being carried in the pocket or hung at the neck. It is said that one of the Popes, suspecting that more of these miraculous teeth existed than ever came out of a single woman's jaws, commanded all that were scattered about Italy to be collected together, and found that they filled six bushels. [100:1]
Miraculous crucifixes were found in many churches. On some, such as that at St. Salvador, the effigy's beard used to grow. Many others spoke, such as that at St. Denis; or that at Naples, which said one day to St. Thomas Aquinas, "Thou hast written well of me, Thomas"; or that at the same city, in the Benedictine church, which held two long conversations with Pope Pius V. [100:2] Another Naples crucifix, in the Carmelite church of St. Mary, bowed its head at the sight of a cannon-bullet which was shot at it in 1439, when Don Pedro of Arragon besieged that city. A still more wonderful crucifix was that under which the Council of Trent was sworn and instituted, and which bowed its head to testify its approbation of the learned decrees of that holy assembly. [101:3] But the most extraordinary of all crosses is mentioned by Calvin [101:4] as exhibited in two different places. This was the famous cross which appeared to Constantine! Originally a celestial vision, it solidified in the course of centuries into at least one, and perhaps two, concrete realities.
Every species of relic was thought to be endowed with curative powers, [101:5] an idea which is countenanced by the story of the touching of the hem of Christ's garment by the woman with a bloody issue (Matthew 19:20, and by the miracles of healing that were wrought by the clothes of St. Paul (Acts 19:12). These texts, indeed, are expressly cited by St. Chrysostom to prove the virtue of relics. The Church always looked with a kind eye upon this superstition, and the Fourth Lateran Council (A.D. 1215) regulated, without repressing it, by forbidding relics to be sold or exposed outside their cases or shrines until their authenticity had been approved by the Pope. These regulations were renewed by the Council of Trent.
A famous monument of Christian fraud is the House of Loretto. The empress Helena, whose senile credulity we have already experienced, having discovered the house of the Virgin Mary at Nazareth, built over it a magnificent church. This sacred edifice having been taken and destroyed by the Saracens, the house was transported by angels on May 10, A.D. 1291, to the coast of Dalmatia. But it was too precious a memorial of the true faith to be left there; and after a rest of three years, during which its angelic conveyancers were perhaps recovering from the fatigue of their first journey, it suddenly and miraculously appeared in the Papal state at Loretto, a few miles south of Ancona. There was no difficulty in recognising it, for a contemporary saint was warned by the Virgin of its arrival; and in A.D. 1518, Leo the Tenth pledged the Papal infallibility to the truth of the miracle, which was further authenticated in a bull of Pope Julius the Second. Pilgrimages to the House of Loretto were long fashionable in Europe, and the Church reaped a rich harvest from its credulous visitors.
Another tremendous fraud was perpetrated at the baptism of Clovis, the first king of the Franks, who embraced the religion of his Christian wife after the battle of Tolbiac, in which he believed that her god had given him the victory. The ceremony of his baptism was pompously performed in the cathedral of Rheims; but before it was completed, the church was filled with a bright light, and a voice was heard, saying, "Peace be with you: it is I: be not afraid: abide in my love." Then the place was filled with heavenly odor, and a dove descended, bearing in her bill a phial of chrism, with which his majesty was anointed. [102:8] The holy phial was preserved, and it was subsequently used until the Revolution at the coronation of the kings of France, the celestial oil being used and miraculously renewed on each occasion. [102:9]
Fleury hints and Schlegel urges that the truth of the story is doubtful, resting as it does on the authority of Archbishop Himcar, who wrote three hundred years after the event. But Mosheim says, "I dare not call the fact in question," and the Church has always accepted it as an unquestionable miracle. Mosheim thinks it "a deception craftily contrived for the occasion," [102:1] and every sensible reader, who admits the story, will probably share his opinion.
In the convent of Sienna there is a curious inscription, which records the marriage of St. Catherine with Jesus Christ. In consequence of her devotion, it is related that the second person of the Trinity came to her cell and placed a marriage ring on her finger. The bridal scene forms the subject of a large number of old Italian paintings. The convent inscription records that "under this roof St. Catherine was married to Jesus Christ on the day of the Carnival, 1364, in the presence of the most blessed Virgin Mary, of King David, who played upon the harp, of St. John the Evangelist, St. Paul, and St. Dominic." Another inscription records that "in this house St. Catherine one day felt an amorous longing (amorose smanie) to see her divine husband; that two very beautiful angels appeared to her to comfort her; but that she, turning to them, said, It is not you I want, but him who created you." [103:2] The reverend traveller, who relates these monstrous blasphemies, asks who can help being reminded of the interviews between Bacchus and Ariadne, and other gallantries of the Pagan mythology.
The millennial craze furnishes another illustration of Christian credulity and priestly fraud. It was one of those "frivolous and senseless notions, which the priests industriously cherished for the sake of lucre." [103:3] At the end of the tenth century it was generally believed that the end of the world was approaching, the clergy having industriously prepared men's minds for the dreadful expectation.
"Hence it came to pass that an innumerable multitude, leaving their possessions, and giving them to churches and monasteries, repaired to Palestine, where they thought that Christ would descend from heaven to judge the world. Others solemnly devoted themselves and all their goods to churches, to monasteries, and to the clergy, and entered into their service as bond-slaves, performing a daily task. Their hope was that the supreme judge would be favorable to them if he found them thus occupied in the service of his servants." [103:4]
"Thus do I ever make my fool my purse," quoth honest Iago. The
priests set the pot boiling and skimmed it for themselves. From
first to last they have traded upon the credulity of the multitude,
whose ignorance they have always fostered in order to make them an