An Admonition showing, the Advantages which Christendom might derive from an Inventory of Relics
An Inventory of Relics by John Calvin
IN WHICH IT IS SHOWN HOW ADVANTAGEOUS IT WOULD BE FOR CHRISTENDOM THAT THE BODIES AND RELICS OF SAINTS WERE REDUCED TO A KIND OF INVENTORY, INCLUDING THOSE WHICH ARE SAID TO EXIST, AS WELL IN ITALY AS IN FRANCE, GERMANY, SPAIN, AND OTHER COUNTRIES.
AUGUSTINE, in his work, entitled, On the Labor of Monks, complaining of certain itinerant impostors, who, as early as his day, plied a vile and sordid traffic, by carrying the relics of martyrs about from place to place, adds, "If; indeed, they are relics of martyrs." By this expression, he intimates the prevalence, even in his day, of abuses and impostures, by which the ignorant populace were cheated into the belief, that bones gathered here and there were those of saints. While the origin of the imposture is thus ancient, there cannot be a doubt that in the long period which has since elapsed, it has exceedingly increased, considering, especially, that the world has since been strangely corrupted, and has never ceased to become worse, till it has reached the extreme wherein we now behold it. But the first abuse, and, as it were, beginning of the evil, was, that when Christ ought to have been sought in his Word, sacraments, and spiritual influences, the world, after its wont, clung to his garments, vests, and swaddling-clothes; and thus overlooking the principal matter, followed only its accessory. The same course was pursued in regard to apostles, martyrs, and other saints. For when the duty was to meditate diligently on their lives, and engage in imitating them, men made it their whole study to contemplate and lay up, as it were in a treasury, their bones, shirts, girdles, caps, and similar trifles.
I am not unaware that in this there is a semblance of pious zeal, the allegation being, that the relics of Christ are kept on account of the reverence which is felt for himself, and in order that the remembrance of him may take a firmer hold of the mind. And the same thing is alleged with regard to the saints. But attention should be paid to what Paul says, viz., that all divine worship of man's devising, having no better and surer foundation than his own opinion, be its semblance of wisdom what it may, is mere vanity and folly. Besides, any advantage, supposed to be derived from it, ought to be contrasted with the danger. In this way it would be discovered, that the possession of such relics was of little use, or was altogether superfluous and frivolous, whereas, on the other hand, it was most difficult, or rather impossible, that men should not thereby degenerate into idolatry. For they cannot look upon them, or handle them, without veneration; and there being no limit to this, the honour due to Christ is forthwith paid to them. In short, a longing for relics is never free from superstition, nay, what is worse, it is the parent of idolatry, with which it is very generally conjoined.
All admit, without dispute, that God carried away the body of Moses from human sight, lest the Jewish nation should fall into the abuse of worshipping it. What was done in the case of one ought to be extended to all, since the reason equally applies. But not to speak of saints, let us see what Paul says of Christ himself. He declares, that after the resurrection of Christ he knew him no more after the flesh, intimating by these words, that every thing carnal which belonged to Christ should be consigned to oblivion and discarded, in order that we may make it our whole study and endeavor to seek and possess him in spirit. Now, therefore, when men talk of it as a grand thing to possess some memorial of Christ and his saints, what else is it than to seek an empty cloak with which to hide some foolish desire that has no foundation in reason? But even should there seem to be a sufficient reason for it, yet, seeing it is so clearly repugnant to the mind of the Holy Spirit, as declared by the mouth of Paul, what more do we require?
But it is not at all necessary to enter into a long discussion of the point, whether or not it is a good thing to have relics merely for preservation, and not for worship for, as we have said, experience teaches that the one is never separated from the other. Ambrose, indeed, speaking of Helena, (the mother of Constantine,) who had at great labor and expense procured the cross of our Lord, says, that she did not adore the wood, but only the Lord, who had hung upon it. But it is most rare for persons to be at all devoted to relics, without being also polluted by some degree of superstition. I admit that they do not, at the very outset, break out into open idolatry, but that gradually, from one fallacy to another, they move along their downward path, until they at last rush headlong. Indeed, people, calling themselves Christian, have gone to such lengths as to exhibit the madness of idolatry in a degree equal to that of the heathen of old. For they have prostrated themselves, and bent the knee before relics as before God, lighting torches and tapers as in solemn worship, putting confidence in them, and fleeing to them as if they possessed a divine power and grace. If idolatry is just to transfer the honour of God to others, can we deny that this is idolatry? It is no excuse to say it is done through the excessive zeal of rude and ignorant men or old women. The extravagance is of wider extent. It has everywhere prevailed, and been approved even by those who sit holding the reins of government in the Church. Nay, the bones of the dead, and all other sorts of relies, have been placed over the principal altars in the high and lofty place to be adored with greater reverence. See how what was at first a foolish curiosity for preserving and treasuring up relics, has at length degenerated into such abomination, that men have not only turned away from God, in order to cleave to things vain and perishing, but even with execrable sacrilege to adore things void of sense, instead of Him who liveth, and is blessed for evermore.
But as evil leads on to evil, another unhappy consequence was, that vile objects, out of number, and altogether devoid of sense and beauty, were received as relics of Christ and the Saints. So blind was the world, that, under whatever name the vain toys were presented, they were at once received without examination and selection as genuine. In this way, men made no difficulty in hugging any ass' or dog's bones which any trifler chose to bring forward as the bones of martyrs. The same thing, as we will afterwards show, happened in other cases, and, I doubt not, by just punishment from God. For when the world, inflamed, as it were, with a kind of rage, longed after relics, that they might pervert them to superstition, it might have been anticipated that God would permit lie to follow upon lie. For in this way is He wont to avenge insult offered to his name, when the glory due only to Himself is transferred to others. Wherefore, the true explanation of the fact, that so many spurious relics exist, is just that when men were delighting in lies, God permitted them to fall into a double error.
The duty of Christians was, to leave the bodies of saints in their tombs in obedience to the universal sentence by which it is declared, that man is dust, and to dust will return; not to raise them up in sumptuousness and splendor, as if they were fabricating a premature resurrection. This duty, however, was not at all understood; but, on the contrary, against the decree of God, the bodies of the faithful were dug up and exalted in splendor, when they ought to have rested in the grave as in a bed till the last day. They were sought after and confided in, and even worshipped; in short, every mark of reverence was paid to them. And what was the result? The devil perceiving the infatuation, thought it not enough to deceive men in one way, but added also the imposture of inscribing the names of relies on things altogether profane; while God, in just vengeance, deprived them of all thought and discernment, so that, without any investigation, whether the thing was white or black, they received indiscriminately whatever was offered to them.
At present, indeed, it is not my design to show what abomination there is in abusing the relics both of Christ and the Saints, in the way in which it has hitherto been done, and is common even in the present day in the greater part of Christendom, for the subject would require a volume to itself. But as it is clear that a great majority of the relics which are exhibited are spurious, being brought forward by certain deceivers, who have impudently imposed on the meanest of the people, it has occurred to me to mention some things which may furnish men of sense with an occasion of thought and reflection. For often, when preoccupied by error or opinion, we approve inconsiderately, without taking time to examine and form a right judgment, and in this way our thoughtlessness deceives us. But, when put on our guard, we begin to attend, our wonder is, how we could have been so giddy and easy in believing what had no appearance of truth. This is exactly what has happened in the present case. For men not being at all on their guard, but being preoccupied by a false opinion, when it is said, "there is the body of such a saint, there are his shoes, there his sandals," easily persuade themselves that it is so. But when I shall have called attention to frauds which cannot be now denied, every man, of even the least prudence, will open his eyes, and employ his mind in considering what had never occurred to himself.
But in this short treatise, I am not able to accomplish what I particularly desire, for it would be necessary to obtain catalogues from all quarters, that it might be known what relics are said to exist in every separate place, so that they might be compared with each other. In this way it would be made manifest that every Apostle has more than four bodies, and every Saint two or three. The same thing would appear in other instances; in short, when the whole heap was collected, there is no man who would not be amazed at seeing how ridiculously the whole world have been blinded. The way in which I considered the matter with myself was this:—since there is no catholic church so small as not to have an infinity of bones and such like frivolities, what would it be if we were to pile up the whole multitude contained in three or four thousand dioceses, in twenty or thirty thousand abbacies, forty thousand monasteries, nay more, in the whole multitude of parishes and chapels? Still the best thing would be to see the things, and not merely to give their names, for, indeed, they are not all known by name. It was said, that in this city there was an arm of St. Anthony. While enclosed in its case, all kissed and worshipped it, but when brought forward into view, it proved to be a nameless part of a stag. On a certain great altar lay part of the brain of St. Peter. So long as it was in its case no man doubted—for it would have been blasphemy not to credit the name,—but when the nest was shaken up, and observed more accurately, it turned out to be a pumice-stone. I might give many similar examples, but these will suffice to show what rubbish would be brought to light, if all the relics throughout Europe were carefully visited, provided it were done with pradence and discrimination. For some persons, when certain relies are exhibited, close their eyes from superstition, and so seeing, see not. I mean, they dare not examine in earnest, so as carefully to ascertain what they are. Thus many who give out that they have seen the entire body of Claud, or some other saint, never ventured to raise their eyes so as to see what it was. But any one who had the liberty of a private inspection, and would dare to use it, would speak very differently. The same may be said of the head of the Magdalene which is shown at Marseilles with a bit of pitch or wax attached to the eye. It is treasured up like some god that has dropt from heaven, but were it examined, the cheat would easily be detected.
It were to be wished, then, that we had certain information concerning all the foolish articles which, in different quarters, are regarded as relics, or, at least, that we had a regular catalogne of them, that it might appear how many are spurious. But since that cannot be, I could wish at least to obtain an inventory from ten or twelve cities, such as Paris, Tholouse, Rheims, Poictiers. For in them alone strange hives as of bees, or at least very curious manufactures, would be seen. Often do I earnestly wish I could obtain such an inventory. But as this would be too difficult for me to accomplish, I at last thought it would be better just to give this brief admonition, by which I might stir up the drowsy, to think what the whole must be when so much imposition is detected in a few. My meaning is; if in the relic chests, which I shall name, though forming not a thousandth part of the whole which are shown, so much imposition appears, what judgment should be formed of the residue? Moreover, if it appears that those which are deemed most genuine are spurious, what should be thought of the doubtful? Would that Christian princes would give some little attention to this. It is part of their office not to allow their miserable subjects to be not only led astray by false doctimes, but also openly imposed upon, in being persuaded, according to the byword, that "bladders are lanterns;" for they will have to account to God for their dissimulation in conniving at these things while they see them, and they will be made to feel that it was, indecol, a most heinous offense to allow God to be held in derision, when they could have prevented it. However, I hope that this little book will be of use to all, and suggest to each, in his own place, the propriety of considering, as the title of this treatise intimates, viz., that if all the relics of Christendom were described, it would be manifest that all men have hitherto been blind, that great darkness has brooded over the whole globe, and the greatest stupidity been universally displayed.
Let us begin then with Christ. As his natural body could not be possessed, (though some have found an easy way of fabricating miraculous bodies for him, in whatever numbers, and with whatever frequency they please,) instead of it they have collected six hundred frivolities to compensate for its absence. They have not even allowed the body of Christ to escape entirely, but have managed to retain a portion. For, besides teeth and hair, the monks of Charrox give out that they have the prepuce, that is, the pellicle cut off in his circumcision. And how, pray, did this pellicle come to them? The Evangelist Luke relates that the Lord was circuincised, but it is nowhere said that the skin was preserved for relics. All ancient histories are silent respecting it, and for the space of five hundred years this subject was not once broached in the Christian Church. Where was it lying hid all the time, and how did it so suddenly burst into notice? Moreover, how came it to travel so far as Charrox? But as a proof of its genuineness, they say that some drops of blood fell from it. They, indeed, say this, but they should prove it. It is plainly a mere absurdity. But were we to grant that this pellicle was preserved, and so might be there or elsewhere, what shall we say of the prepuce which is shown at Rome, in the church of Joannes Lateranensis? As it is certain there was only one, it cannot possibly be both at Rome and Charrox. Thus the falsehood becomes manifest.
Next comes the blood, about which there have been great disputes. For very many have maintained, that no blood of Christ exists, except what is miraculous. And yet his natural blood is exhibited in more than a hundred places; in some of them, as at Rochelle in Aunis, in a few drops which Nicodemus is said to have received in his handkerchief; in others, in full phials, as at Mantua. At Billom in Auvergne, it is shown in a crystal vase, in the form of a liquid, while, at a village in the same neighborhood, and in other places, it is coagulated. Elsewhere, as in the church of Eustathins at Rome, it is poured from full goblets. Nor was it enough to have pure blood; they must needs also have it mingled with water, as it flowed from our Saviour's side when it was pierced on the cross. This ware is found at Rome in the church of Joannes Lateranensis. I leave every man to judge what certainty can be had on such a subject, and whether it be not a manifest falsehood to say that the blood of Christ has been found seven or eight hundred years after his death, and in such quantities as to be diffused over the whole world, and this without any mention of it whatever in the ancient Church.
Next come certain things which were in contact with the body of our Lord, or, at least, things which could be collected, and in the absence of his body be converted into relics, so as to keep it in remembrance. First, There is shown at Rome, in the church of the elder Mary, the manger in which he was laid at his birth, and in the church of St. Paul, the linen in which he was swaddled, although some portion of it is said to be in the church of St. Salvator in Spain. There also is shown his cradle, together with the shirt which his mother, Mary, put upon him. Likewise at Rome, in the church of St. James, is the altar on which he was placed on his being presented in the temple—as if various altars had then existed, as under the Papacy, where they are erected at pleasure. In this matter, the lie appears without disguise.
These are the pretended relics which belong to the period of our Saviour's childhood. It cannot be necessary gravely to discuss the question, how these articles were discovered, so long after our Saviour's death. No man is dull enough not to see that the whole affair is sheer madness. The Evangelical History says not a word of these things, nor were they ever heard of in the days of the apostles. About fifty years after the death of Christ, Jerusalem was pillaged and overthrown. Since then, numerous ancient Doctors have written and made mention of the things which existed in their day—in particular, of the cross and nails which Helena found. But of these paltry trifles there is not a word. Nay, even in the time of Gregory, as is evident from his writings, not one of them existed at Rome. After his death, Rome was repeatedly taken, pillaged, and almost utterly destroyed. If these considerations are duly weighed, what else can be said but that all these relics were devised for the purpose of imposing on ignorant people? And, indeed, the favorers of a false religion, both priests and monks, confess this, giving them the name of "pious frauds," as if by their means the people were incited to piety.
A second class of relics belongs to the intervening period between our Saviour's childhood and his death. Among them is the pillar on which Christ leaned when disputing in the temple, together with eleven similar pillars belonging to the Temple of Solomon. But who revealed to them that Christ when disputing leaned on a pillar? The Evangelist, in giving an account of the disputation, does not even allude to it. Nor is it likely that the preachers' place was granted to him, when, as is manifest, he possessed no reputation or authority. Besides, even if he did lean on a pillar, how, I ask, do they know that this was the one? Again, where did they find the twelve pillars which they say belonged to Solomon's Temple?
Then they have the waterpots in which our Saviour turned the water into wine, when he was present at the marriage in Cana of Galilee. I would fain know who was their custodier all the time, and afterwards made presents of them. For it is always to be observed, that they did not make their appearance till eight hundred or a thousand years after the miracle was performed. I am not acquainted with all the places where these are shown. I know, however, that they have them at Ilavenna, Pisa, Clugny, Angers, and in the church of St. Salvator in Spain. But not to dwell on this, it is easy to prove the imposture by merely taking a look at them. For some have only the capacity of a gallon measure, a little more or less, while others could contain eight firkins. Let these be reconciled with each other if it be possible, and then I will let them have their waterpots without dispute. But not contented with the pots, they have thought proper to have the liquor also. For at Orleans they give out that they are in possession of some of the wine; they say it belonged to the Architriclinus, (the master of the feast.) The people think this Architriclinus is the bridegroom's name, and they are still kept in their ignorance. Once a-year they give the smallest possible tasting on the tip of the tongue to those who are pleased to bring some offering, and they are told that they are quaffing the wine which the Lord made at the feast. Nor is the quantity ever diminished; only the cup requires now and then to be filled up. I am not aware of the size of his shoes which are said to exist at Rome in the place which they call the Holy of Holies, and whether he used them when he was a boy, or after manhood; but it is all alike. For the observations I have already made are sufficient to show how impudent it is at this time of day to pass oft; as belonging to Christ, shoes of which the Apostles had never heard.
Let us now come to relics of the last Supper, which Christ celebrated with the Apostles. The table is at Rome, in the church of Joannes Lateranensis, some of the bread in that of St. Salvator in Spain, while the knife with which the Paschal Lamb was cut up is at Treves. Be it observed, Christ celebrated the Supper in a hired room, and, of course, on quitting it, left the table behind. Nor do we read that it was carried off by the Apostles. Some years after, as we have said, Jerusalem was destroyed. What semblance of probability is there, that that table was found out seven or eight hundred years after? Besides, tables were at that time quite different in shape from those now in use. For at meals, the custom was not to sit, but to recline; this is clearly shown in the gospel. There is here, therefore, a manifest falsehood. What more? At the church of Mary Insulane, near Lyons, is shown the cup which contained the Sacrament of his blood which he gave to the Apostles to drink. It is also to be seen in the Vivarais in a certain monastery of Angustins. Which are we to believe? But the case is still worse with the dish in which the Pasehal Lamb was placed. For it is at Rome, and at Genoa, and at Arles. Perhaps the custom of that time was different from ours. For as in the present day, a variety of meats are put into one dish; so there must then have been various dishes for one meat, if credit is to be given to these holy relics. Can falsehood be more clearly proved? The same thing occurs in the case of the linen towel with which our Saviour wiped the feet of the Apostles, after he had washed them. There is one at Rome, in the church of Joannes Lateranensis, and another at Acqs in Germany, in the church of Cornelius, with the mark of Judas' foot upon it; one or other of these must he spurious. What, then, shall our judgment be? Let us have them to debate the matter among themselves, until one shall have made out something like a case. Meanwhile, let us hold it a mere imposition to attempt to persuade men that a towel, which our Saviour left in the house in which he celebrated the Supper, took its flight to Italy or Germany, five or six hundred years after the destruction of Jerusalem. I have omitted to mention the bread on which the five thousand were miraculously fed in the wilderness. A piece of it is shown at Rome, in the church of Maria Nova, and a smaller piece in that of St Salvator in Spain. Scripture relates, that a portion of the manna was reserved as a memorial of the great miracle by which God fed the Israelites in the desert. But though there are five relics of the loaves, the Evangelist does not relate that any of them was preserved for such a purpose; nor is the thing mentioned by any ancient history, or by any of the ancient Doctors of the Church. It is easy, therefore, to conclude, that that which is now shown is of a more recent batch. We must come to the same conclusion, concerning the branch which is in the church of St. Salvator in Spain. They say it is the one which Christ carried when he entered Jerusalem, on the feast of the Passover, or, as they call it, Floridos. But it is no where said in the gospel that Christ carried a branch; the whole, therefore, is manifest fiction. The same rank must be assigned to other relics which are exhibited at the same place, namely, the earth on which our Saviour's feet rested when he raised Lazarus. Who, pray, marked the place so carefully, as to be able, after the destruction of Jerusalem, by which everything in Judea was changed, accurately to point out the very spot?
We come now to the principal relics of our Lord, viz., those connected with his sufferings and death. And, first, let us consider the case of the cross on which he was suspended. I know it is regarded as a certain fact, that Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, discovered it. And I am not ignorant of what ancient Doctors have written, to prove that it undoubtedly was the cross on which our Saviour was crucified. Let all those have their due credit, though it was vain curiosity, or ill-judged religious zeal, that caused Helena to make the search for it. But assuming that her exertions to find out the cross are worthy of all praise, and that our Lord himself, after it was found, miraculously declared that it was truly his Cross, let us see how the matter is to be viewed with reference to our own times. The cross which Helena found is said to be still at Jerusalem. And no one calls this in question, though it is plainly inconsistent with ecclesiastical history, which relates that Helena sent part of it to the emperor her son, by whom it was placed on a pillar of porphyry at Constantinople; and that she inclosed the remainder in a silver chest, which she gave to the Bishop of Jerusalem for preservation. Therefore, we must either accuse the history of falsehood, or the things told of the true cross in the present day are utterly vain and frivolous.
Again, let us consider how many fragments of it are scattered up and down over the whole globe. A mere enumeration of those of which I have a catalogue would certainly fill a goodly volume. There is no town, however small, which has not some morsel of it, and this not only in the principal cathedral church of the district, but also in parish churches. There is no abbey so poor as not to have a specimen. In some places, larger fragments exist, as at Paris, in the Holy Chapel, at Poictiers, and at Rome, where a crucifix of tolerable size is said to have been entirely made out of it. In fine, if all the pieces which could be found were collected into a heap, they would form a good shipload, though the gospel testifies, that a single individual was able to carry it. What effrontery, then, thus to fill the whole world with fragments, which it would take more than three hundred men to carry? But they have fallen upon an explanation, and it is, that how much soever may be cut from it, it never grows less. But this device is too foolish and absurd for the superstitious themselves not easily to see through it. I leave it to all men to consider what certainty can be had as to the genuineness of all the pieces of wood which are worshipped in all the different places as the true cross. Whence certain fragments were brought, and by what way and means, I omit to say; some affirming that they were brought to them by angels, others that they drop from heaven. Those of Poictiers say, that the piece which they have was stolen by a maidservant of Helena, and carried off; and that she having afterwards fled, brought it, in the course of her wanderings, into that district. They also add to the story that she was lame. Such are the illustrious grounds on which they stimulate the wretched populace to idolatry. And not contented with imposing on the rude and ignorant, by displaying a piece of common wood as the wood of the cross, they have declared it every way worthy of adoration. The doctrine is altogether devilish, and Ambrose expressly condemns it as heathen superstition.
Next after the cross comes the title which Pilate ordered to be affixed to it, and on which he wrote, "JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS." But we must know the time, place, and manner, of its being found. It will be said that Socrates, the Ecclesiastical Historian, makes mention of it. This I admit. But he says nothing as to what became of it, and hence his testimony is of no great weight. Besides, that inscription having been written hastily, and on the spur of the moment, after our Saviour had been actually crucified, it is most irrational to suppose that it was a picture painted skillfully as for display. Were only one exhibited, it might deservedly be deemed false and fictitious, but when the people of Tholouse say that they have it, and those of Rome contradict them, and show it iii the church of Santa Croce, they convict each other of falsehood. Let them, therefore, debate the matter among themselves as long as they please; in the end, if all things are duly examined, both will be proved false.
There is a still greater controversy as to the nails. I will mention those of which I have heard, and from them the merest child will judge how grossly the devil had deluded mankind, after having deprived them of all sense and reason, and so made them incapable of exercising any discernment in the matter. If ancient writers, and especially Theodoret, the historian of the ancient Church, say is true, Helena ordered one to be fixed in her son's helmet, and the other two to be fitted to his horse's bridle. Yet Ambrose does not express an unqualified assent. For he says, that one was fixed in the crown of Constantine, that his horsebit was made of the second, and that Helena kept the third to herself. We thus see, that twelve hundred years ago there was a controversy as to what became of the nails. What certainty, then, can we now have? The Milanese boast of having the one which was fitted to the horse's bridle, while the inhabitants of Carpentras interpose, and claim it for themselves. But Ambrose does not say at all that it was fitted to the bit, but that it was made into a bit, an account which cannot by any possibility agree with what is affirmed by the inhabitants of Milan and of Carpentras. There are also two nails at Rome, one in the church of St. Helena, and another in that of Santa Croce. Then there is one at Sienna, another at Venice, two in Germany, viz. at Cologne, in the church of the Three Manes, and at Treves. In France, there is one in the Holy Chapel, another in the possession of the Carmelites, another at the church of St. Denis, in the Isle of France, another at Bourges, another in the Abbey of Ciseaux, and another at Draguignan. Here we have them to the number of fourteen. Moreover, each place seems confident of the sufficiency of the proof in its favor. One thing certainly I will concede, that all the claims are equally good, and hence nothing is simpler than to pass the same sentence upon all, namely, to account them all, in spite of their boasting, to be spurious. There is no other way of unraveling the matter.
The next thing in order is the soldier's spear. This ought to be one only, but perhaps, from having felt the fire of some alchemist, it has increased and multiplied. For four have come to light, besides those which exist in different places, of which I have not the names. There is one at Rome, another in the Holy Chapel at Paris, a third at Saintonge in the monastery of Ciseaux, a fourth at Selve, near Bourdeaux. Which of these, then, is to be selected as the true one? The easier course will he to turn them all adrift, and leave them as they are. But granting that there is one, I would fain know where it was found. As no ancient histories, or other writings, mention it, it must be of modern manufacture.
In regard to the crown of thorns, it would seem that its twigs had been planted that they might grow again. Otherwise I know not how it could have attained to such a size. First, a third part of it is at Paris, in the Holy Chapel, and then at Rome there are three thorns in Santa Croce, and some portion also in St. Eustathius. At Sienna, I know not how many thorns, at Vincennes one, at Bourges five, at Besançon, in the church of St. John, three, and as many at Koningsberg. At the church of St. Salvator, in Spain, are several, but how many I know not; at Compostella, in the church of St. Jago, two; in Vivarais, three; also at Toulouse, Mascon, Charrox in Poictou, St. Clair, Sanflor, San Maximin in Provence, in the monastery of Selles, and also in the church of St. Martin at Noyon, each place having a single thorn. But if diligent search were made, the number might be increased fourfold. It is most evident that there must here be falsehood and imposition. How will the truth be ascertained? It ought, moreover, to be observed, that in the ancient Church it was never known what had become of that crown. Hence it is easy to conclude, that the first twig of that now shown grew many years after our Saviour's death.
Next comes the purple robe in which Pilate clothed Christ in derision, because he had called himself a king. It was a costly robe not to be carelessly cast away. Nor is it to be supposed, that, after the mockery of Christ was over, Pilate Of his servants did cast it away. I should like to know who the merchant was that purchased it from Pilate to preserve it for relics. To give some color to their fiction, they show some drops of blood upon it, as if; forsooth, the villains who put it on the shoulders of Christ in mockery had afterwards chosen to destroy it. I know not whether any thing under the same name is found elsewhere. The coat, woven from the top to the bottom, and without seam, as it seemed better adapted to stimulate the piety of the unlearned, has produced a considerable number of others. For one is exhibited at Argenteuil, a village in the suburbs of Paris, and another at Treves. But if the Bull which is in the church of St. Salvator in Spain says true, Christians have, from inconsiderate zeal, sinned more heinously than those wicked soldiers who did not dare to divide it. Christians have not feared to tear it in pieces, for purposes of adoration. But what will the Turk say, who, while he derides the madness, declares that it is with him ? It is unnecessary, however, to go to law with the Turks about it, as they will have enough to do in settling the quarrel among themselves. Meanwhile, we have a good excuse for not giving credit to any of them; for we must not favor either party before hearing the cause. This were a violation of equity. Nay, if they wish to be believed, they must first reconcile themselves with the Evangelists. The matter stands thus—The garment for which lots were east was the tunic, which the Greeks call χιτων. I would have men carefully consider the form of the one which is at Strasburgh or at Treves. They will find that the one at Strasburgh resembles the robe used at mass, and to which they give the name of chasuble. And, therefore, though they were to put out men's eyes, the imposture might still be detected, being such as may be felt by the hand.
To conclude this article, I wish to propose a simple question. Scripture declares that the soldiers parted our Saviour's vesture among them; and it is most certain that they did so for their own private advantage. Will they now then tell me what Christian it was who bought of the soldiers the tunic and other vestments, which are exhibited, for instance, at Rome, in the church of St. Eustathius, and in other places? How came the Evangelists to forget the circumstance? for it was absurd to tell us that the soldiers parted the vesture among them, without also telling who it was that redeemed it out of the hands of the soldiers, in order that it might be preserved for relics. Moreover, how came the ancient writers to be so unkind as never to say one word on the subject? In solving these questions, they had better choose a day when men are devoid of sense, intelligence, and judgment. But they have not stopped here. In addition to the robe, they have thought proper also to have the dice employed in casting the lots. One of these is at Treves, another at St. Salvator's in Spain. In this they have characteristically displayed their childishness. The lots to which the Evangelists refer were those which were usually taken out of a hat or urn, as in the present day when a king is elected by ballot, or in the common game called Biancha. In short, everybody knows how lots are cast when lands or heritages are divided. But those asses have imagined that the lot was like our one for playing at dice, though that thing was not then in existence, at least in the shape in which we now have it. For, in place of the dots which are upon our dice, they had certain figures, such as Venus, or a dog, which they designated by their proper names. Let them now go and kiss their relics, on the testimony of men, thus stupid, and thus absurd in their lies.
We must now consider the napkin, as to which they have still more openly betrayed their impudence and stupidity. For, besides the napkin of Veronica, which is exibited at St Peter's, and the robe which the Virgin Mary is said to have wrapped round our Saviour, and which is shown in the church of Joannes Lateranensis, and also in the Augustin monastery at Carcassone, they have also the napkin in which our Saviour's head was wrapped in the sepulchre. This is exhibited at the same place There are, at least, six cities more which boast of having this very napkin, as the one at Nice, which was brought from Cambray, also those at Acqs in Germany, at Maestricht, at Besançon, and also at Vindon in Limoges, also in a certain town in Lorraine, on the borders of Alsace; besides portions of it which are scattered up and down in different places, as at St. Salvator's in Spain, and in a monastery of Augustins in the Vivarais. I say nothing of that complete napkin, which exists in a certain nunnery at Rome, as the Pope has expressly prohibited the exhibition of it. Must not men, I ask, have been exceedingly infatuated, to travel so far, at great expense, and with greater trouble, to see a bit of cloth, as to which not the least certainty could be had, or rather as to which they must, of necessity, have had their doubts? For whosoever believes that this napkin exists in one particular place, brings a charge of falsehood against all the others which boast that they possess it. For instance, he who believes that the piece of cloth which was at Cambray is the genuine napkin, condemns those of Besançon, of Acqs, of Vindon, of Maestricht, and of Rome, as guilty of falsehood and of wickedness, inasmuch as they stimulate the people to idolatry, and impose upon them, by making them believe that a bit of common cloth is the linen which wrapped our Saviour's body in the tomb.
Let us now attend to the testimony which the Gospel gives on the subject; for it were little that they merely convicted each other of falsehood, if the Holy Spirit did not oppose them, and openly condemn all of them to a man. First, it is very strange that the Evangelists make no mention of Veronica, who is said to have wiped our Saviour's face with a napkin, though they speak of all the women who accompanied our Saviour to the cross. The circumstance would have been remarkable, and well worthy of a place in their narrative, had our Saviour's face been miraculously imprinted on a napkin. On the other hand, it does not seem a matter of much importance that some women accompanied our Saviour to the cross, if nothing miraculous, in regard to them, was performed. How comes it that the Evangelists relate things of little or of no great importance, and are silent as to the most important of all? For, had such a miracle been performed as is commonly intended, the Holy Spirit is chargeable either with forgetfulness or thoughtlessness, in having failed to select the matters which it was of most importance to relate. So much for their Veronica, as to whom all men may see how manifestly false every thing is which they would fain have generally believed.
In regard to the linen clothes in which our Saviour's body .was wrapped, I would, in like manner, ask how it comes, that while the Evangelists carefully enumerate the miracles which took place at the death of Christ, and omit nothing which is pertinent to the history, this wondrous miracle so completely escaped them, that they say not a word about the impression of our Lord's body which was stamped on his graveclothes? The circumstance surely was as worthy of being mentioned as many others. John declares that Peter went into the sepulcher, and saw the linen clothes lying in a place by themselves, but he makes no mention of the miraculous impression. It cannot be supposed that he would have suppressed so wondrous a miracle, had it really been performed. But another doubt occurs. It is nowhere said by the Evangelists that the linen clothes were carried away out of the sepulcher by the disciples or the holy women. Though they do not speak in express terms, they rather insinuate that they left them there. Then the sepulcher was guarded by the soldiers, and of course the linen clothes remained in their power. Is it likely that they gave them to some pious individual for the purpose of being converted into relics; especially when it is considered that the Pharisees had bribed them to perjure themselves by declaring that the disciples had secretly stolen away the body? It is almost unnecessary to add, that the imposture may be completely detected merely by inspecting the impression which is exhibited. It is perfectly clear that it was painted by a human hand. I cannot cease wondering how those who framed the imposture were so dull of understanding as not to use more craft in the doing of it; and, still more, how others were so silly as to allow themselves to he blindfolded, and thereby unfitted to see through a matter so very transparent. Nay, it appears that they have painters at hand. For one napkin happening to be burned, another was forthwith produced. No doubt, it was affirmed to be the same that was shown before, but the picture was so fresh that there would have been no room for the falsehood, had not eyes been altogether wanting to perceive it.
To conclude in one word, their impudence will be proved by an argument which cannot be gainsayed. In all the places where they pretend to have the graveclothes, they show a large piece of linen by which the whole body, including the head, was covered, and, accordingly, the figure exhibited is that of an entire body. But the Evangelist John relates that Christ was buried, "as is the manner of the Jews to bury." What that manner was may be learned, not only from the Jews, by whom it is still observed, but also from their books, which explain what the ancient practice was. It was this: The body was wrapped up by itself as far as the shoulders, and then the head by itself was bound round with a napkin, tied by the four corners, into a knot. And this is expressed by the Evangelist, when he says that Peter saw the linen clothes in which the body had been wrapped lying in one place, and the napkin which had been wrapped about the head lying in another. The term napkin may mean either a handkerchief employed to wipe the face, or it may mean a shawl, but never means a large piece of linen in which the whole body may be wrapped. I have, however, used the term in the sense which they improperly give to it. On the whole, either the Evangelist John must have given a false account, or every one of them must be convicted of falsehood, thus making it manifest that they have too impudently imposed on the unlearned.
I would never come to an end were I to go, one by one, over all the absurd articles which they have drawn into the service. At Rome, in the church of Joannes Lateran ensis, is shown the reed which was put into our Saviour's hand as a scepter, when he was mocked and scourged at Pilate's judgmentseat At the same place, in the church of Santa Croce, is shown the sponge which was offered to our Saviour containing vinegar mixed with gall. How, I ask, were those things recovered? They were in the hands of the wicked. Did they give them to the Apostles, that they might preserve them for relics? Or did they, themselves, lock them up that they might preserve them for some future period? What blasphemy, to abuse the name of Christ by employing it as a cloak for such driveling fables! The same account must be given of the money which Judas received to betray his Master. The Evangelist relates that it was returned by himself in the synagogue of the Pharisees, and was afterwards employed in the purchase of a field to bury strangers in. Who got back this money out of the hands of the seller of the field? It would be too ridiculous to say it was the disciples. Some more plausible account must be given. If they answer that it took place a long time after, the thing will be still less plausible, since in that case the pieces of silver must have passed through many hands, and been mingled with other pieces. They will, therefore, require to show that the owner of the field actually sold it with the intention of getting possession of these pieces of money, that he might be able to use them as relics, or to sell them over again to the faithful. Of this, however, there is no mention whatever in the ancient Church.
There is a similar fiction with regard to the steps of Pilate's judgment seat. These exist at Rome, in the church of Joannes Lateranensis, together with the holes into which they say that drops of blood fell from our Saviour's body. In like manner, in the church of Praxed is shown the pillar to which he was bound when he was scourged, and three other pillars in the church of Santa Croce, round which he was led when taken away to die. I know not how they came to dream of all these pillars. This much, at least, is certain, that they are the offspring of their own brain; for we read not a word of them in the whole Gospel history. We read, no doubt, that Christ was scourged; but that he was bound to a pillar is their own invention. It must be obvious, therefore, that these impostors have done nothing else than attempt to rear up a huge pile of lies. In doing this, they have carried their license to such a length that they have not hesitated to make a relic of the tail of the ass on which our Saviour rode, and which is exhibited at Genoa. But it is not so much their impudence that astonishes us as the infatuation and stupidity of men, in religiously embracing such absurdities.
Here, perhaps, some one will allege it to be improbable that the relics which I have now named would be exhibited with so much pomp if they were not able to show whence they came, and by whose hands they were received. I answer, in one word, that nothing like probability is employed to cloak these transparent lies. For how much soever they may shelter themselves under the name of Constantine, or King Louis, or some of the Popes, all this avails them not when they have to prove that fourteen nails were used in fixing our Saviour to the cross, that a whole hedge was plaited in making his crown of thorns, that the spear's point produced three other points, that his robe was so multiplied as to be converted into three, or that it changed its form so as to be metamorphosed into a robe for mass, to which it had not the least resemblance, or that one napkin produced as many other napkins as a hen does chickens, or that our Saviour was buried after a different fashion from that which the Evangelists relate. Were I to take a lump of lead, and pointing to it, to say, "This gold was given me by such a prince," I would deservedly be thought mad. At all events, my assertion would make no change upon the color or the nature of the lead, so as to convert it into gold. In the same way, when it is said, "See what Godfrey of Boulogne sent into these quarters after he had subdued Judea," though the lie is obviously repugnant to reason, will we allow ourselves to take the account without using our eyes to see what lies plain before them?
For to convince all men how little credit is due to the proofs which they adduce in support of their relics, it is to be observed, that the chief and most authentic of those which are seen at Rome are said to have been brought thither by Titus and Vespasian. This fiction is not a whit more ingenious than if it were said that the Grand Turk went to Jerusalem in order that he might bring the cross of Christ to Constantinople. Vespasian, before he became Emperor, subdued and laid waste a part of Judea. Afterwards, when he had obtained the empire, his son Titus, whom he had left in command, took Jerusalem. Now, both of them were heathens, and cared no more for Christ than if he had never been born. In the same way, we may judge whether, in alleging that Godfrey of Boulogne, or King Louis, brought these relics, they have not lied with equal effrontery as when they said it was Vespasian. Besides, let it be considered what kind of judgment was displayed by that king to whom they give the name of St. Louis, and by others like him. They had, no doubt, a semblance of religion, and a zeal, such as it was, for the propagation of the Christian name. But if the droppings of goats had been shown them, and they been told at the same time that they were the Virgin Mary's beads, they would have worshipped them at once, without ever debating the matter, and would have sent ships to transport them to any place where they were to be set up and honored. It cannot be denied they wasted both their resources and their bodily strength, and also spent a goodly part of their revenues in bringing back a heap of indescribable trifles and toys, by which the minds of men were so fascinated as to regard them as most valuable jewels. To give a clearer illustration of the fact, I may observe, that throughout the whole of Greece, Asia Minor, and Mauritania, and the whole of those countries which go under the name of the Indies, all the antique relics which our idolaters imagine that they possess here are there exhibited with the greatest confidence. How are we to decide between these two parties? Our people say that the relics were brought away from those places. The Christians who are living there affirm that they still possess them, and deride our foolish boasting. How can the dispute be decided without investigation—investigation, however, which cannot, and never will, be made? The only remedy is to despise both, and leave the matter as it is, in status quo.
The last class of relics belonging to Christ are those which relate to events subsequent to his resurrection; e.g. the piece of broiled fish which Peter offered to him when he appeared on the seashore. It must have been wondrously well salted if it has kept for such a long series of ages! But, jesting apart, is it supposable that the apostles made relics of what they had actually prepared for dinner? Whoever does not perceive that the whole matter is an open mockery of God, I must leave as unworthy of being farther addressed on the subject. Then we have the miraculous blood which has flowed from many of the hosts at mass; as at Paris, in the church of John Arenarius, and also in that of John the Angel; as also at Dijon, and many other places. And, in order to enlarge the heap, they have added the impious knife with which the host was stabbed at Paris by a certain Jew. This knife the Parisians regard with greater veneration than the host itself. When Doctor a' Quercus, who held the cure of St. John Arenarius, found that the donations made to this host stood in his way, (his gains being diminished in proportion to what the knife received,) he indignantly exclaimed, that they were worse than the Jews, inasmuch as they were worshipping a knife which had been the instrument of violating the sacred body of Christ. I have adduced this instance, because the exclamation would equally apply to the spear, the nails, and the crown of thorns; all who adore them being, in the opinion of Master a' Quercus, more impious than the Jews by whom Christ was crucified.
In like manner are shown the prints of his feet in a place where he is said to have appeared to several individuals after his ascension, as at Rome, in the church of St. Lawrence, at the spot where he is said to have appeared to Peter, and foretold him that he was to suffer at Rome. Another of these footmarks is to be seen at Poictiers, in the church of Arabegend, another at Soissons, and another at Aries. I deny not that Christ could have left the mark of his foot upon a stone. I only deny the allegation of his having actually done so. In the absence of all proper proof, I maintain that the whole ought to be regarded as a mere fable. But the most admirable specimen of this description of relics is the impression of his hips, which is seen at Rheims, on a stone behind the altar, and is said to have been left at the time when our Saviour turned mason, in order that he might build the vestibule of that church. The blasphemy is so execrable, that I am almost ashamed to mention it.
To proceed, let us now attend to what is said of images, I mean not those which are usually made by painters, sculptors, and artists—(the number of these is infinite;)—but of those which possess some special claim to respect, and are regarded as singular and precious, as being of the nature of relics. Of these there are two kinds; for some have been miraculously formed, as that which is shown at Rome, in the portico of the church of St. Mary. There is another also in the church of Joannes Lateranensis; and another, in which there is a picture of our Lord, said to have been taken at the time when he was twelve years old. There is also another at Lucca, which they say was painted by angels, and is called "The Holy Countenance." These follies are so absurd, that I would lose my pains, and feel I was absurdly wasting my time, were I to dwell upon them. It is sufficient, therefore, merely to have noticed them in passing; for everybody knows that painting is not at all an office which belongs to angels, and that the means by which our Lord wished to make himself known, and imprinted on our memory, was very different from lifeless images. Eusehius relates, in his Ecclesiastical History, that our Saviour sent his picture, painted to the life, to King Abgarus; and this is somewhat more certain than a fiction taken from the Chronicles of Milan. But though the fact were so, how came they to obtain it from King Abgarus? It is said to be at Rome; but Eusebius says not that it was in existence up to his day. He only speaks by hearsay, as of a thing which had occurred long before. Is it to be believed, that it was brought to light six or seven hundred years after; and, quitting Persia, traveled as far as Rome?
Pictures of the cross have been fabricated in the same way as those of our Saviour's person. It is given out at Brescia, that they have the very cross that appeared to Constantine. I will not dispute the matter with them; I only send them to the Cortonians, who firmly maintain that they possess it. Let them litigate the matter between themselves, and then let the one who gains his plea come forward, and we will give him his answer. Indeed, it is not difficult to find an answer that will convict them all of folly. For when some writers say that a cross appeared to Constantine, they mean not a material Cross, but the figure of a cross which was exhibited to him by a visible representation in the sky. Therefore, although the fact were true, it is clear that they have fallen into a very stupid blunder, and reared up their imposture without giving it the shadow of a foundation.
But there is a second species of images which are regarded as relics, in consequence of certain services which they have performed. To this class of images belong crucifixes, on which the beard grows; for instance, one at Burgos in Spain, another in the church of St. Salvator, and another in that of Aurengia. Were I to dwell upon this for the purpose of demonstrating what folly, or rather brutish stupidity, it is to believe such a thing, I should make myself ridiculous. The whole matter is so absurd in itself, that it cannot be at all necessary to spend time in refuting it, and yet the wretched populace are so dull, that the great majority of them think it just as certain as the gospel. With these, also, I class those crucifixes which have spoken, and of which there is a great multitude. But let us content ourselves with one, by way of example, viz., the one which is at St. Denis in France. It spoke, they say, when it testified that the Church was dedicated. Leaving others to consider how far the importance of the matter called for such utterance, I only ask how an image of the cross could have been in the Church at that time, when, according to the custom used at dedications, all the images are removed from the Church? How did it manage to steal away and conceal itself, so as not to be removed with the rest? We see how easy a matter they must suppose it is to deceive the world, since they care not how much they contradict themselves, but deem it enough to belch forth their lies with open mouth, giving themselves no concern about any objections that might be urged. Lastly, we have got tears also; one, for instance, at Vindon, another at Treves, in the church of St. Maximin, another at Orleans, in the church of Peter Puellare, besides many which are unknown to me. Some of these are said to be natural tears, as the one at St Maximin; for, according to their chronicle, our Lord let it fall when he was washing the disciples' feet. Others are miraculous, as if it were to be believed that crucifixes of wood had so much feeling in them that they could shed tears. But we must pardon them this fault; they were ashamed to think that their images could do less than had been done by those of the heathen. The heathen pretended that their idols occasionally wept, and these crucifixes, therefore, must receive the same right, and be put on an equal footing!
With regard to the Virgin Mary, as they give out that her body is not on the earth, they are of course prevented from pretending to have her bones; were it otherwise, I can well believe they would have given her a body of such a size as would suffice to fill a thousand sarcophaguses. What is denied with reference to the whole body, they have endeavored to compensate by hair and milk. Some hairs are shown at Rome, in the church of Mary supra Minerva, at St. Salvator's in Spain, at Mascon, at Clugny, at Nocera, at Sanfior, at St James's, and many other places. As to the milk, it cannot be necessary to enumerate all the places where it is shown. Indeed, the task would be endless, for there is no town, however small, no monastery or nunnery, however insignificant, which does not possess it, some in less, and others in greater quantities; not that they would have been ashamed to have it in hogsheads, but they thought the lie might be more plausible if they had only a small quantity,—as much, for instance, as could be contained in a small gallipot or phial; for in this form it can be kept back from minute inspection. But had the breasts of the most Holy Virgin yielded a more copious supply than is given by a cow, or had she continued to nurse during her whole lifetime, she scarcely could have furnished the quantity which is exhibited. Again, I would fain know how that milk, which is at present almost everywhere exhibited, was collected, so as to be preserved until our time. We do not read of any person who had the curiosity to undertake the task. We read, indeed, that the shepherds worshipped Christ, and that the Magians presented gifts to him, but we nowhere read of her having given milk as a kind of return for their presents. Luke relates the prophecy which Simeon made to the Virgin; but he does not say that Simeon asked her to give him some milk. If the matter be only looked to, it will be unnecessary to offer any argument for the purpose of showing how utterly devoid of reason, and all appearance of probability, this wild dream is. It is strange how it never occurred to them to pare her nails, and get other things of that kind, when there was nothing else of the body they could get ; but perhaps it was impossible for them to mind every thing.
The other relics of the Virgin, which they boast of having, form part of her wardrobe and baggage. First, there is a shirt at Chartrain, which is a very celebrated object of idolatry, and there is another at Acqs in Germany. It is needless to ask where they found them; for it is most certain that the Apostles and other pious men were not so foolish as to occupy their minds with such frivolities. But let its form only be examined, and I will instantly succumb, if the imposture does not become visible even to the eye. At Acqs, where is one of the shirts we have mentioned, it is carried round in solemn state fastened to a pole, and is as long as a white surplice. Had the Virgin been of the race of the giants, I don't believe she would have had so long a shirt. To give more importance to the exhibition, they, at the same time, produce shoes belonging to St. Joseph, which would only fit a boy or a dwarf. There is an old proverb, "A liar should have a good memory." That proverb has been little attended to here; for so short has been their memory, that they have forgotten to attend to the measure of the husband's shoes and his wife's shirt. Now, let them run about, and, with the greatest veneration, kiss their relics which have not the least semblance of being genuine. I know of only two gowns, one at Treves, in the church of St. Maximin, and another at Lisia in Italy. I should like much to examine them, that it might be seen what kind of web they are made of and whether it is such as the Jews of that period were wont to weave. I should like also that the two gowus were compared together, to ascertain whether there is any similarity between them. At Bonne there is a certain scarf. Someone will ask me if I think it is fictitious. I answer, that I have the same opinion of it that I have of the two girdles, the one of which is at Prague, and the other at St. lago of Montserrat, and also of the slipper which is at St. James's, and the shoe at Sanfior. But if there were no other objection, every person not absolutely sunk in ignorance is aware that the pious had no such custom as that of collecting shoes and sandals, in order to make relics of them, and that for 500 years after the Virgin's decease not one of these things was ever heard of. What need, therefore, for farther discussion, as if the matter were at all doubtful?
Nay, they have even thought proper to calumniate the most holy Virgin, by representing her as excessively careful about decking her person, and combing her hair; for they show two combs that belonged to her. One of them is in St. Martin's at Rome, the other in St. John's at Besancon. It is probable there are a great many more in other places. If this is not to hold up the holy Virgin to derision, I know not what derision is. Moreover, they have not forgotten her marriage-ring, which is to be seen at Perugia. Because it is now customary with us for the husband at marriage to present his bride with a ring, they have imagined, without making more inquiry about the matter, that it was customary also at that time. What they have adopted for this purpose is a beautiful ring of great value, never thinking of the great poverty in which the Virgin spent her life. Of her wardrobe, part is seen at Rome, in the church of Joannes Lateranensis, of St. Barbara, of Mary supra Minerva, and part at Blois, and also at St. Salvator's in Spain; at least, they boast of having some fragments of them there. I have also heard other places mentioned, but they escape my memory. To detect the imposture, it were only necessary to inspect the texture of this clothing. They seem to have imagined it as easy for the Virgin to put herself in full dress, as it is for them to deck their idols, which they are ever and anon furnishing with new attire.
It remains to speak of pictures—not pictures in general, but those which are specially celebrated for some singular quality. And, first, they pass off an imposture in the name of Luke, pretending that he painted four pictures of the Virgin, and that these are now at Rome. In the church of St. Mary the Immaculate one of them is shown at the altar, where it is hung up, as they say, in devotion to her, together with the ring which Joseph gave her on her espousals. Another is shown at Rome also, in the church of Mary Nova, and is said to have been painted by Luke at Troas, and brought thither by an angel. Another is in the church of St. Mary called Aracali, and is in the form of a cross. But at the church of St. Augustine they give out that they have the most remarkable of all; for if they are to be credited, it is one which Luke carried constantly about with him, and even wished to be put into his coffin when he died. What blasphemy, I ask, to convert a holy evangelist of God into an impious idolater? And what pretense have they for holding that Luke was a painter? Paul calls him a physician, but on what grounds they assign to him skill in painting I have not the least idea. Even if it were true that he practiced this art, it is not a whit more probable that he would have painted the Virgin than that he would have painted Jupiter or Venus, or any other idol. It certainly was not the practice at that period for Christians to have idols, nor was it introduced till long after, when the Church had been corrupted with superstition. Again, every corner of the globe is filled with pictures said to have been painted by Luke, as at Cambray, and many other places. And in what form? in such colors as one might be expected to employ in painting an abandoned woman. God hath so blinded them that they have shown no more consideration in this matter than the beasts that perish. However, it does not seem strange to me that they have attributed pictures of the Virgin to Luke, since they have practiced similar imposition in the name of Jeremiah. Evidence of their impudence in this respect may be seen at Puteus, a town of Auvergue. Now, I should have thought it time for miserable men to open their eyes, and see through a matter so transparent. I say nothing of Joseph, though some are said to have his shoes, as at Treves, in the monastery of Simeon, and others to have his sandals, while to others are reserved his bones. The specimens already given should be a sufficient exposure of the absurdity.
I must, however, add the case of the archangel Michael, and his attendance on the Virgin Mary. It will be thought I am in jest when I speak of the relics of an angel. Comedians and players have laughed at this, but monkish and priestly impostors have not, therefore, ceased to deceive the people in good earnest. For the inhabitants of Carcassone boast that they have relics belonging to him, as do also those of Tours, in their church of St. Julian. In the great church of St. Michael, which is frequented by crowds of pilgrims, they show his dagger, which looks very much like the one boys play with. They show also his shield, which in appearance exactly corresponds with the dagger, resembling the brass circles which are put upon horses' harness. Assuredly there is no man and no old woman so dull as not to see how ridiculous those things are. But because the lies are covered with the veil of religion, the iniquity of thus deriding God and angels is not perceived. Some may here object the express declaration of Scripture, that Michael fought with the devil. True; but if the devil were to be vanquished, it behooved to be with a stronger and a sharper sword than that one. Are they so brutish as to imagine that the war which both angels and believers wage with devils is carnal, and carried on with daggers and sharp weapons? But it is just as I have observed before: mankind have richly deserved, by their brutish stupidity, to be so deceived, while with perverse eagerness they have gone about in all directions collecting idols and images, to which they might give worship, instead of giving it to the living God.
To proceed in order, we must now consider the case of John the Baptist, who, according to the account given in the Gospel, that is, according to the truth of God, after being beheaded, was buried by his disciples. Theodoret relates that his sepulcher, which was at Sebastia, a town of Syria, was some time afterwards opened by the heathen, who burned the body, and scattered the ashes to the wind. It is true, indeed, Eusebius adds, that some inhabitants of Jerusalem came and secretly carried off a portion, which they removed to Antioch, and which Athanasius afterwards inclosed within a wall. Sozomen wrote that the head was conveyed to Constantinople by the Emperor Theodosius. The testimony of ancient history, therefore, is, that the whole body was burned, with the exception of the head, and that all the bones and all the ashes were scattered, except a very small portion, which was carried off by some hermits of Jerusalem. Now, let us see how much is said to be extant. The people of Amiens say that they have the front part of the head; and in the skull exhibited by them a wound appears, which they say Herodias inflicted with a knife. The inhabitants of Joannes Angelicus contradict them, and show the very same part. But the remainder of the head, viz., that reaching from the forehead back to the neck, was formerly in Rhodes, and is now, I think, in Malta; at least the Templars did pretend that it was restored to them by the Turks. The back of the head is at Nevers, and the brain at Novium Rantroviensis. And yet, notwithstanding, part of the head is in the church of Joannes Morienus. Then his jaws are at Besancon, in the church of John the Elder. Another part is at Paris, in the church of Joannes Lateranensis, and the tip of the ear is at Sanflor, in Auvergne, while the forehead and the hair is in St. Salvator's, in Spain. At Noyon, also, is a certain portion, which is wont to be exhibited in great state. There is also a part, but I know not what, at Lueca. Is all this true? Go to Rome, and you will hear that the whole head of John is in the monastery of Sylvester. Poets feign that in Spain there once lived a king, named Geryon, who had three heads. If our fabricators of relics could say the same thing of John the Baptist, it would be a great help to their lies. But since there is no room for such a fable, to what excuse will they resort? I am unwilling to press them so far as to ask how his head was cut into such minute portions as to become capable of distribution in so many various places, or how they got it out of Constantinople. I only say that John must have been a monster, or that they are impudent impostors in exhibiting so many fragments of his head.
But this is not the worst. For the people of Sienna say that they have got his arm, an allegation contradicted, as we have already observed, by all ancient history. Nevertheless, the imposture is tolerated, nay even approved; for in the kingdom of Antichrist nothing is thought wicked which tends to increase the superstition of the people. Besides, they have invented another fable, viz., that when his body was burned, the finger with which he pointed out Christ to his two disciples remained entire, and was not injured in the least. But this not only does not accord with ancient history, but may easily be confuted by it. For Eusebius and Theodoret relate that when the Gentiles seized the body it was all consumed to the very bones. Assuredly, had anything so miraculous happened with regard to the finger, they would not have omitted to mention it; for in other respects they are rather too fond of narrating such trifles. But supposing the fact to be as alleged, let us see for a little where this finger is to be found. There is one at Besancon, in the church of John the Great, another at Tholouse, another at Lyons, another at Bourges, another at Florence, and another at the church of Fortuitus, near Maseon. All I would do here is to ask my readers not to harden themselves against evidence so clear and certain—not to close their eyes in such bright light, and allow themselves to be led astray, as it were, in the dark. If there were jugglers, who could so impose on our eyesight as to make it appear that there were six fingers on one hand, we would yet guard cautiously against imposture, and try to detect it. Here, however, there is nothing that even looks like a clever trick. The whole question is, whether we are to believe that the same one finger of John is at Florence, and in five other places, as at Lyons, Bourges, and other towns; or, to state the matter in fewer words, whether we are to believe that six fingers make no more than one finger, or that one finger makes six? I have mentioned only places that are known to me, but I doubt not that, if inquiry were made, as many more would be discovered, and that fragments of the head also would be found of bulk sufficient to make up the head of an ox. But that nothing might be omitted, they pretend that they have got his ashes also, some of them being at Genoa, and others at Rome, in the church of Joannes Lateranensis. The historical account is, that they were scattered to the winds. How does this agree with what is said, especially by the Genoese?
It now remains to consider certain articles which are a kind of accessories of the body, for instance, the shoe which is at Paris in the monastery of the Carthusians. It was stolen some twelve or fifteen years ago, but another forthwith made its appearance; and, indeed, so long as shoemakers exist there will be no want of such relics. They give out that in the church of Joannes Lateranensis at Rome they have got his girdle, of which there is no mention in Scripture. It is only said that he had his raiment of camel's hair. This raiment they choose to convert into a girdie. They say they have also in the same place the altar in which he said his prayers in the desert, as if at that time it had been the custom to erect altars in every place, and on every occasion. It is strange they do not also make him perform mass. At Avignon they have the sword with which his head was cut off; and at Acqs, in Germany, the linen cloth which was placed under him in the act of beheading him. How, I would fain know, was there so much kindness and civility in the executioner as to cover the bottom of the dungeon with a carpet at the time he was going to put the Baptist to an ignominious death? I would also like to know how these things happened to come into their hands. Is it probable that the executioner, whether he were a courtier or a common soldier, gave the linen cloth and his sword, that they might be converted into relics? As they wished to make the collection of relics so very perfect, they have blundered sadly in overlooking the knife with which Herodias is said to have wounded him in the eye, and likewise all the blood that must have been spilt, together with his tomb. But perhaps the mistake is in me. It is quite possible that these famous articles are exhibited in places I am not acquainted with.
Now let the Apostles come forward in order. Their number, however, may beget confusion; and, therefore, the better course will be to take Paul and Peter by themselves, and afterwards proceed to the rest. Their bodies are at Rome, half at St. Peter's, and half at St. Paul's, Sylvester having, it is said, weighed them to make sure of an equal division. The heads of both are in the church of Joannes Lateranensis, though in the same church there is a tooth of Peter existing separately by itself. Though these things are so, it does not prevent them from being in other places also, as at Poictiers, where they have Peter's cheekbone and his beard. At Treves they have many bones belonging to both, and at Argenton, in Berri, they have Paul's shoulder. But the thing is endless. Wherever there are churches dedicated to them, they have their relics in abundance. If it be asked, what kind of relics? let them call to mind what kind of a one the brain of St. Peter was which I formerly mentioned, and which stood on the high altar of this city. As it turned out to be a pumice stone, so, on inquiry, it will be found, that many of the bones which arc attributed to these Apostles are those either of horses or dogs.
Then come the things belonging to the bodies, as accessories. For instance, there is a shoe at St. Salvator's in Spain, but of what form and material I am unable to say. But the probability is, that it is an article of a similar description to the shoes which they have at Poictiers, and which are made of polished leather, ornamented with gold. See how splendidly they have adorned him after death, to compensate for the poverty in which he passed his life! As the Bishops of the present day, in representing pontifical majesty, are so splendidly clothed, it would seem to derogate from the dignity of the Apostles, were not something of the same nature attributed to them. True! painters can draw pictures in what colors they please, decking them from top to toe in varied attire, and then give them the name of Peter and Paul, or any other name; but everybody knows the kind of clothing which they actually had in this world, and that it was no better than that which is usually worn by the poor. They have also at Rome the Episcopal chair in which Peter sat, together with the sacerdotal robe in which he used to say mass, as if Bishops had at that time sat on thrones. Their business rather was to teach, comfort, and exhort in public and private, and make themselves ensamples to the flock; not to show themselves to the people to be adored by them, as the prelates of our day are wont to do. With regard to the robe for mass, the custom of masking after the manner of players was not then introduced; for plays were not then acted in the Church as they are now. Wherefore, in order to prove that Peter was dressed in a missal robe, they must first show that when he worshipped God he performed the part of a player like the Popish priests. It was natural enough for them to give him a missal robe, as they had previously given him an altar; but there is no more plausibility in the one than in the other. What kind of masses was then celebrated is well known; for the Apostles in their time only celebrated the Lord's Supper, and for this no altar was necessary. That kind of monstrosity called a mass was altogether unknown, and continued to be unknown for long after. Hence it is clear, that these men, in fabricating their relics, must have supposed they were never to meet with an opponent; so shamelessly and extravagantly have they dared to lie. And yet they are not agreed among themselves as to that altar. For the Romans say that they have it, while the people of Pisa also show it in their suburb which faces the sea.
But that they might lose no possible means of making profit, they have not forgotten the sword with which the ear of Malehus was cut off; as if it were some fair ornament worthy of being preserved as a relic. I have omitted to mention the staff which is shown at Paris in the church of St. Stephen a' Pierre, and which is in as high repute as the altar and missal robe, and just for as good a reason. As to the staff; there is somewhat more plausibility in it, as it is not unlikely he may have used a staff in traveling; but then they throw every thing into confusion, by not agreeing among themselves about it. For the inhabitants of Cologne, and likewise those of Treves, contend for the possession of it. While they accuse each other of falsehood, they furnish us with good grounds for not giving credit to either. As to the chain with which Peter was bound I say nothing. It is shown at Rome in the church which bears its name. Nor do I say anything of the pillar on which he was beheaded, and which is shown in the church of St. Anastasius. I only leave my readers to reflect how that chain must have been procured for the purpose of being converted into relics, and also whether, at that time, it was customary for executions to take place upon pillars.
We will now consider the case of the other Apostles jointly, and will dispose of it in a very few words. And first, we will mention where the whole bodies are, that by comparing them together, it may be seen what certainty can be had in reference to the things said of them. Everybody knows that the inhabitants of Tholouse think that they have got six of these bodies, viz., those of James the Greater, Andrew, James the Less, Phillp, Simeon, and Jude. The body of Matthias is at Padua, that of Matthew, at Salerno, of Thomas, at Ortona, and of Bartholomew, at Naples, or somewhere in that district. Now, let us attend to those who have had two or three bodies. For Andrew has another body at Melfi, Philip and James the Less have each another body at the church of the Holy Apostles, and Simeon and Jude, in like manner, at the church of St. Peter. Bartholomew has also another in the church dedicated to him at Rome. So here are six who have each two bodies, and also by way of a supernumerary, Bartholomew's skin is shown at Pisa. Matthias, however, surpasses all the rest, for he has a second body at Rome, in the church of the Elder Mary, and a third one at Treves. Besides, he has another head, and another arm, existing separately by themselves. There are also fragments of Andrew existing at different places, and quite sufficient to make up half a body. For his head is at Rome, at the church of St. Peter, a shoulder in that of Grisgon, a rib in that of St. Eustathius, an arm in that of the Holy Spirit, and some other part in the church of St. Blaise. There is also a foot at Aix. Were all these joined together, and properly fitted, they would make up two quarters of the body. But as Bartholomew left his skin at Pisa, so also he has left one of his heads at Treves, and some other member, I know not what. He has also a finger at Frene, while some other relics of them exist also at Rome, in the church of St. Barbara. Thus, there is not only no want, but a superfluity in his case. The others are not so well supplied, yet each of them has somewhat to spare. For Philip has one foot at Rome, in the church of the Holy Apostles; also in the church of St. Barbara he has I know not what relics, besides these which he has at Treves. In these two last churches he has James for his companion; for James, in like manner, has a hand in the church of St. Peter, an arm in that of Grisgon, and another in that of the Holy Apostles. Matthew and Thomas have been left poorer than the rest. For the former has only one body, together with a few bones at Treves, and an arm at Rome, in the church of St. Marcelius, and a head in that of St. Nicholas, unless there be some which have escaped me. This is very likely; for how can one avoid losing one's self in such a labyrinth?
Finding in their legends that the body of the Evangelist John vanished as soon as it had been consigned to the earth, it has been impossible for them to produce his bones, but they have endeavored to compensate the matter in another way, by making a rush at all the articles connected with him. And the first thing which occurred to them is the cup out of which he drank poison after he was condemned by Domitian. But as two cities lay claim to it, we must either give implicit credit to what alchemists tell us of multiplication, or these people with their cup have played off a hoax on the world. There is one at Bonlogue, and another at Rome, in the church of Joannes Lateranensis. Next, they have laid hold of his tunic, and the chain with which he was bound when he was brought from Ephesus, together with the oratory in which he prayed while he was in prison. I should like to know, whether at this time he hired carpenters to make an oratory for him, and also what intimacy between Christians and his jailers enabled them to obtain the chain from them, and so give it a place among their relics. These things are too absurd even to amuse children. But the most extraordinary articles of all are the twelve apostolic combs, which are exhibited in the church of Mary Insulan, near Lyons. I believe they were placed there at first with the intention of exhibiting them as combs which belonged to twelve peers of France, but their dignity afterwards having increased, they became apostolic.
The other things must be briefly dispatched; for otherwise we should never be able to get out of this forest. We shall merely mention a few of the alleged relics of saints who lived in the days of our Saviour, and then mention a few of those of the ancient martyrs and others. In this way my readers will be able to judge for themselves. Anna, mother of the Virgin Mary, has one of her bodies at Apte in Provence, and another in the church of Mary Insulan at Lyons. Besides, she has one of her hands at Treves, another at Turin, and a third in a town of Thuringia, which takes its name from it. I say nothing of the fragments which exist in more than a hundred places. Among others, I remember having myself long ago, kissed a portion of it at Ursicampus, a monastery in the vicinity of Noyon, where it is held in great reverence. Lastly, another of her arms is in St. Paul's at Rome. Here, if it be possible, let some certainty be shown.
We now come to Lazarus, and his sister the Magdalene. He, as far as I know, has only three bodies; one at Marseilles, another at Austum, a third at Avallon. Between these towns there was a great controversy, but after large sums were expended on both sides, they left the matter as it was, each continuing to maintain its claims.
Magdalene being a female, it was necessary to make her inferior to her brother, and, therefore, she has only two bodies, one of which is at Vesoul, near Auxerre, and another, which is of greater renown, at San Maximin, a town of Provence, where also her head exists separately, together with what is called the Noli me tangere, which is a bit of wax, but is said to be the mark of a blow which our Saviour gave her in anger when she wished to touch him. I need not advert to the relics of her bones and hair, which are scattered over the world. Those who wish to know the certainty of all these things, should first inquire whether Lazarus, and his sisters Martha and Magdalene, ever came to France for the purpose of preaching the gospel. For if ancient history be read and examined with judgment, it will be seen that this is the most stupid of all fables, and has not the least shadow of plausibility. Yet the relics of Lazarus and Mary are the best authenticated relics of all. Be this as it may, was it not enough to pervert one body to idolatry, instead of proceeding, according to the common saying, to make three devils out of one?
In like manner, they have given a place among their deities to him who pierced the side of our Lord when on the cross, and have called him Longinus, a puerile blunder certainly. This name in Greek signifies a spearman, but they have laid hold of it and converted it into the proper name of an individual. After thus naming him, they have given him two bodies, one of which is at Mantua, and the other at the church of Mary Insulan at Lyons. They have done the same with the Magians who came to worship Christ after his birth. And first they have fixed the number of them, maintaining that there were three only. The Gospel nowhere says how many there were, while some of the ancient doctors, for instance, the writer of an unfinished Commentary on Matthew, which is sometimes attributed to Chrysostom, affirms that there were fourteen. The Evangelist calls them Magians, that is, philosophers, but they have taken it upon them to give them royal dignity, though without kingdom or subjects. And lastly, they have given them names, calling the one Beithasar, the other Melehior, and the other Gaspar. However, if we may be permitted to interfere with their fables, it is most certain that these philosophers returned to the East. This the Scripture expressly declares; and there is no ground at all for any other belief than that they died there. Who was it that afterwards transferred them from those regions? Who knew them so well, that he could identify their bodies, for the purpose of being converted into relies? But I desist. It is foolish to engage in refuting such absurdities. All I say is, that the inhabitants of Cologne and of Milan should be left to litigate among themselves as to which of the two is to possess them. Both claim them, and it is impossible that both can be right. When once they bring their lawsuit to a close, it will be time to see what should be done.
Among ancient martyrs, Dionysius is particularly celebrated; for he is held to be a disciple of the Apostles, and the first evangelist of the French. On this account relics of him are preserved in many places, while his body exists entire in two places only, viz., St. Denis and Ratisbon. Because the French claimed him exclusively to themselves, the people of Ratisbon raised an action against them at Rome about a hundred years ago, and the body was adjudged to them by a definitive sentence, while the Legate of France was personally present, and a very fine Bull to this effect was given to them. But should any person go to St. Denis, which is in the neighborhood of Paris, and deny that the body is there, he would be stoned. At the same time, should any one deny that it is at Ratisbon, he would be counted a heretic; for his denial would be rebellion against the Apostolic See. The prudent plan, therefore, will be not to meddle with their disputes. Let them tear out each other's eyes if they will; the utmost they will gain will be to prove that the whole matter is a lie.
The body of Stephen they have so dissected, that, though it is entire at Rome, in the church which bears his name, the head is at Aries, and bones are in more than two hundred places; while, as if to show their approval of those who put him to death, they have consecrated even the stones by which he was murdered. It will, perhaps, be asked how they could be identified, where they were found, and out of whose hands they were recovered? I give this short reply, that it is a foolish question. There could be no difficulty in finding them, wherever stones are found, and the carriage is not costly, as at Florence, at Aries, in the monastery of the Augustins, and at Vigeon, in Aquitaine. Any one who chooses to shut his eyes, and deprive himself of all understanding, will believe that they are the very stones that stoned Stephen; while he, again, who will give some little heed to the matter, will laugh. But assuredly the Carmelites of Poictiers, within the last fourteen years, possessed one to which they assigned the office of assisting women in labor, and easing their pains. The Dominicans, from whom one, destined like a pearl for the same purpose, had been stolen, had a mighty quarrel with them, and bawled out imposture; but the Carmelites, by fighting stoutly, came off victorious.
I had almost determined to be silent concerning the Innocents, as they call them; for although I could muster something like an army of them, it might always be alleged that there is nothing in this contradictory to history, because their exact number has not been defined. Therefore, I will say nothing of their numbers. Only let it be observed, that there is not a region of the world where some of them are not said to exist. I would ask, however, in what manner, after so long an interval, their graves were discovered, more especially as they were not regarded as saints till Herod slew them. I would also ask, when were they brought hither? The only answer which can be given is, that it was five or six hundred years after their death. Any person, however ignorant and illiterate, may judge what the result will be if credit is given to such wild dreams. Moreover, even if these Innocents could have been discovered, how could such a number of their bodies have been imported into France, Germany, and Italy, so as to be distributed amongst cities so remote from each other? This imposture, therefore, I leave as clearly established.
As Lawrence is included in the list of ancient martyrs, we will here assign a place to him. I do not know, indeed, that his body is in more than one place, viz., at Rome, in the church which bears his name; but there is a separate vase filled with his ashes, and likewise two jugs, the one filled with his blood, and the other with his fat. Moreover, an arm and bones are in the church which bears the name of Palisperna, and other relics in the church of St. Sylvester. But were all the bones collected which are in France alone, I have no doubt that two complete bodies might be formed out of them. There also is the gridiron on which he was roasted, although Palisperna, which we have mentioned, boasts of having a fragment of it. In regard to the gridiron I could pardon them; but there are other more notable relics as to which it were unlawful to be silent, I mean the coals which are shown at the church of St. Eustathius, and the towel with which an angel is said to have wiped his body. Since they have idled away their time in devising dreams of this nature to impose upon the world, let those who read this Admonition take time for due consideration, and, by so doing, consult for themselves, and guard against being so imposed upon in future. Of the same manufacture is the dalmatic, which is also shown at Rome, in the church of St. Barbara. Having heard that Lawrence was a deacon, they imagined that he decked himself in a vesture similar to that which metamorphoses their deacons when they play their part in the mass. But the office of deacon in the ancient Church was a very different thing from what it now is in the Papacy. Deacons were then elected to take charge of the poor and distribute alms, not to be a kind of stageplayers, and, consequently, had no need whatever of dalmatics or similar maskings.
To Lawrence we will join Gervasius and Protasius, whose tomb existed at Milan in the days of Ambrose, as he himself testifies, and likewise Jerome, Augustine, and many others. Accordingly, the Milanese even now lay claim to their bodies, which are nevertheless at Brissac, in Germany, and at Besancon, in the church of St. Peter, besides an endless number of fragments scattered up and down in various churches of the world. Each of them must, therefore, have had at least three or four bodies, or we must discard the bones which now falsely pass under their name.
In assigning to Sebastian the office of curing the plague, their object was to bring him into high esteem, and so make him be more eagerly sought after. The consequence has been, that his one body has been multiplied into four bodies, one of which is at Rome, in the church of St. Lawrence, a second at Soissons, a third at Pilignum, in Brittany, and a fourth near Narbonne, the place of his birth. He has, moreover, two heads—one at Rome, in the church of St. Peter, and another at Toulouse, in the possession of the Dominicans. Both heads, however, are empty, if credit is to be given to the Franciscans of Angers, who give out that they have his brain. Nay, these Dominicans have also an arm. There is also another at Toulouse, in the church of Saturninus, another at Casede, in Auvergne, another at Brissac, in Germany, beside minute fragments which exist in various churches. When all these things have been well considered, let any one guess where the body of Sebastian really is. Not contented, however, with these, they have made relics of the arrows with which he was pierced. One of them is shown at Lambese, in Provence, another at Poictiers, while others are scattered up and down in various places. The whole makes it plain that they had taken it for granted that they were never to be called to account for their impostures.
The same multiplication of relics has prevailed in the case of Anthony. By pretending that he is passionate and mischievous, and inflames those who may have given him offense, they have made him an object of dread; from this dread has arisen a superstitious desire to possess his body, and so have a security against harm. Accordingly, the city of Aries had a keen and tedious litigation on the subject with the monks of St. Anthony at Vienne. The result was just that which usually takes place in controversies of this description; that is, the whole matter still remains in darkness. Indeed, had any thing been actually proved on the subject, and the truth been made manifest, it would not have been to the advantage of either party. To these two bodies they have added a knee, which is in the Vivarais, in the possession of the Augustins; besides various members which exist at Bourges, Mascon, Dijon, Chalons, Ovron, and Besancon, and others, which are everywhere hawked about by traveling impostors. Of these the number is not small. See what it is to get a name for doing mischief. But for this, that good saint would still be in his tomb, or, at least, concealed in some corner.
I have omitted St. Petronilla, Peter's daughter, whose entire body is in the church dedicated to her father, besides some separate remains in the church of Saint Barbara; nevertheless, another body is in the possession of the people of La Maine, in the monastery of the Dominicans, and is held in the very highest repute, because alleged to cure fever.
As there were various saints of the name of Susanna, I cannot say whether they have thought proper to give two bodies to any one of them. There is one body of a Susanna at Rome, in the church which bears her name, and there is another at Toulouse. Helen has not been so highly favored. The Venetians have the body, but in addition to it, she has not gained any superfluous part, with the exception of another head which exists at Cologne in the church of Grisgon. In this respect St. Ursula has the advantage of her. For, first, she has her body in the church of St. John the Angel; then she has one head at Cologne, and part of another with the Dominicans of La Maine, as also the Dominicans of Tours, and at Bergers. Of her companions, to whom they give the name of the Eleven Thousand Virgins, whatever may be thought, it must, at least, be admitted, that by feigning them to be so numerous, they have enabled themselves to lie with greater freedom. Beside the bones which are at Cologne, and which would be quite sufficient to load an hundred wagons, there is scarcely a city in Europe which does not possess them as the ornament of one or more of their churches.
Were I to take a survey of the common herd of saints, I should get entangled in a forest out of which I should never be able to escape. It will be sufficient, therefore, to adduce some specimens, from which a judgment may be formed in regard to the rest. There are two churches in Poictou which contend for the body of Hilary, viz., the cathedral church dedicated to him, and that of the Monks at Selle. The controversy is at present awaiting the visitation which is to take place. In the interval, the idolaters will be forced to worship two bodies as those of the same individual; whereas true believers, feeling no anxiety whatever about his body, will allow it to rest, be it where it may. The body of St. Honoratus is at Aries, and is also in the Island of Lerins near Antiboul.Aegidius has one of his bodies at Toulouse, and another in a town at Aquitaine, which is named after him. William is in a monastery of Aquitaine, which is called St. William in the Desert, and also in a town of Holstein, which is called Ecrichum, where also his head exists separately, although he has also another head in the suburb of Tours, among the Williamites. What shall I say of Symphorianus, whose body and bones exist in so many places? Also of Lupus, which is at Auxerre, at Sienna, at Lyons, and which they have also pretended to be at Geneva? What likewise shall I say of Ferreolus, whose whole body is at Uzes in Aquitaine, and also at Brioude in Auvergne? Not to betray their lies so openly, they ought, at least, to enter into an arrangement, as the monks of Treves have done, as to their dispute with those of Lodi about the head of Lambert. They have agreed as to the offerings, by compounding, for a certain sum of money, with this condition, however, that the body possessed by the former shall not be publicly exhibited, lest suspicion might be excited by both being seen in two cities so near each other. Thus it is, as I mentioned before at the outset; they never supposed that any observer would appear who would ever dare to open his lips in exposure of such impudence.
But any one may ask, how have these fabricators of relics omitted the many notable things connected with the Old Dispensation, since,without any regard to reason, they have heaped up all that ever came into their mind, and, as it were with a breath, called into existence whatever they pleased? To this question I can give no other answer than that they did not think it worth their while, because they had no prospect of deriving much advantage from such relics ; and yet they have not forgotten them entirely, for at Rome they gave out that they have the bones of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the church of Mary supra Minerva. They also boast that in the church of Joannes Lateranensis they have the ark of the covenant and Aaron's rod within it. The same rod, however, is at Paris in the Holy Chapel, while some fragment of it also is in St. Salvator's in Spain. I omit the inhabitants of Bourdeaux, who maintain that the rod of St. Martial, which is exhibited in the church of Severinus, is the identical rod of Aaron. It would seem that they had wished to perform a new miracle as in rivalship of God; for whereas He, by his power, turned the rod into a serpent, so they have now turned it into three rods. Very probably they have many other toys of the same description, but let it suffice merely to have mentioned this, in order to make it manifest that they have been as honest here as in other matters.
Now, I would entreat my readers to remember what I said at the outset, viz., that I have not searchers at hand to examine the sacraria of all the regions which I have here mentioned. Wherefore, what I have said of relics must not be taken as if it were a perfect inventory of all the things which might be discovered. I have mentioned only six German cities, or thereabouts, three, as far as I know, of Spain, fifteen of Italy, and between thirty or forty of France; nor am I even acquainted with all the relics that are in them. Let every one, therefore, consider with himself what a farrago there would be if we saw the multitude of relics existing throughout the world described in order, or only in the regions which are known to us, or in which we live. For it is to be particularly observed, that all the relics of Christ and the Apostles exhibited in Europe exist also in Greece, Asia, and other countries where Christian churches are found. Now, I ask, when the Christians of the Eastern Church say that all these things which we pretend to have are in their possession, what decision can we come to upon the subject? If, in answer to them, we aver that this body was brought thither by merchants—that one by monks—and that other by a bishop—that part of the crown of thorns was sent by the Emperor of Constantinople to the King of France—that another was obtained in war—and so on of each, they will laugh and shake their heads. How will the controversy be decided? In doubtful matters we must trust to conjecture, and, therefore, in this respect, they will always get the better of us. For what they produce in their behalf is much more probable than what we can produce in ours. Those who defend relics have certainly a very difficult knot to loose.
To draw to a conclusion, I beseech my readers, in the name of God, to give heed to the truth while it lies plainly before them, and recognize how Divine Providence has wonderfully provided, that those who thus wished to mislead the meanest of the people have been so blind that they never thought of using a cloak for their lies, but moving blindfolded, like the Midianites, have set about slaughtering one another. As we see how they are still warring among themselves, and charging each other with falsehood, every man, who is not obstinately determined against the truth, though he may not yet clearly perceive that the worship of any relics, of whatever kind they be, whether genuine or spurious, is execrable idolatry, yet seeing how clear their falsehood is, will have no desire to kiss them any more, and whatever reverence they may have previously inspired, will cease to have any relish for them.
The best thing, indeed, would be, as I mentioned at the outset, if; among us who profess the name of Christ, this heathenish custom were abolished, whether they be relics of Christ or of the saints. In as much as they do degenerate into idols, the pollution and defilement which they occasion ought not on any account to be tolerated in the Church. This we have already demonstrated, both by argument and by the testimony of Scripture. If any one is not satisfied with this, let him look to the manner and practice of the ancient fathers, and conform to their example. Many patriarchs, prophets, kings, and other faithful worshippers, existed under the Old Testament. More ceremonies were then appointed by God than it becomes us to observe in the present day. Nay, even burial itself required more show than it now does, because by its figures it represented the resurrection, which was not so clearly revealed to them as it has been to us. But do we read that the saints were ever dug out of their graves, in order that they might be converted into a kind of puppets for children? Was Abraham, the father of all the faithful, thus carried in state, or was Sarah, a princess in the Church of God, taken out of her coffin? Were they not left in quiet along with the other saints, and was not the body of Moses so concealed, by the express will of God, that it never could be discovered? Did not Satan, as Jude tells us, contend for it with the angels? The Lord then withdrew it from the sight of men, and the devil tried to bring it back. God confessedly took it away, in order that it might not become an occasion of idolatry to the Jewish people; and the devil would have brought it back, that he might make it an occasion of idolatry. But that people, it will perhaps be said, was prone to superstition and what, pray, are we ? Is there not in this respect greater perversity among Christians than there was among the Jews? And what do we find to have been the practice of the ancient Church? The faithful, it is true, always exerted themselves to rescue the bodies of martyrs, and prevent their being torn by wild beasts and ravenous birds, so as to secure for them an honorable burial. This they did in the case of John the Baptist and Stephen. They did it, however, for the purpose of committing them to the earth, that they might there rest till the resurrection—not that they might be brought forward into public view in order that all might prostrate themselves before them. This unhappy pomp of consecrating was never introduced into the Church until all things were subverted, and, as it were, profaned, partly by the stupidity or avarice of some prelates and pastors, and partly by the inability of others to withstand a practice which had already begun to prevail. Nay, even the people themselves courted deception, by giving their mind to mere frivolities rather than to the pure worship of God.
Wherefore, if a complete reformation of this corrupt practice is desired, it will be necessary to begin at the very foundation, and abolish a practice which was at first instituted improperly, and against all reason. But if any one is not able at one step to make such an advance towards true understanding, let him at least proceed gradually. And, in the first place, let him open his eyes, and exercise his judgment upon any relics which may be presented to him. No one inclined to make the attempt will find it at all difficult; for among the many transparent lies, such as those to which I have already adverted, where will any relics be found whose genuineness amounts to anything like certainty? Nay, at the very time when this little book was passing through the press, I was informed of a third prepuce, which I had not mentioned, and which is shown at Hildesheim. The number of similar follies is indeed infinite, and a careful inspection would discover more than it is possible to enumerate. Let every one, then, be on his guard, and not allow himself to be led along like an irrational animal, and as if he were incapable of discerning any way or path by which he might be guided safely. I recollect when I was a boy how they were wont to do with the images of our parish. When the feast of Stephen drew near, they adorned them all alike with garlands and necklaces, just decking the murderers who stoned Stephen in the same way as they decked Stephen himself. When the old women saw the murderers thus adorned, they imagined that they were Stephen's companions. Accordingly, every one was presented with his candle. Nay, the same honour was conferred on the devil who contended with Michael, and so on with the rest. And so completely are they all mixed up and huddled together, that it is impossible to have the bones of any martyr without running the risk of worshipping the bones of some thief or robber, or, it may be, the bones of a dog, or a horse, or an ass. Nor can the Virgin Mary's ring, or comb, or girdle, be venerated without the risk of venerating some part of the dress of a strumpet. Let every one, therefore, who is inclined, guard against this risk. Henceforth no man will be able to excuse himself by pretending ignorance.
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