Thursday, May 09, 2019


True Works of Christian Virtue

Patrick J. Geary, Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages, rev. ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), p. xii:
From the reign of Charles the Great until the age of the crusades, we have nearly one hundred relic theft accounts, many quite similar to that of Teodaudus, others describing thefts by various other sorts of thieves. These stories are, at first reading, bizarre: monks creeping into a neighboring church to force open a tomb and flee with the body of a long dead saint; merchants landing on distant shores fully armed to capture a church and force its guardians to divulge the resting place of its patron; professional relic-mongers systematically despoiling the Roman catacombs for the benefit of Frankish ecclesiastics. But even more bizarre for modern readers is the almost universal approval of contemporaries who heard of these thefts. Far from condemning them as aberrations or as sins against the fellow Christians from whom the saints were stolen, most people apparently praised them as true works of Christian virtue, and communities such as Bèze boasted of their successful thefts.
Hat tip: Jim O'Donnell.

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