October - relics lost and found. 
  Not a lot of new material on the site of late, mainly because I'm working on an extended 'art in context' project on the Lower Church in Assisi; hoping to get back there next year for a another look. 
  Some interesting links with other places visited this year have come to mind while working on this.. In medieval times (and later) relics were regarded as having extraordinary powers - healing, wish fulfilment, and so on.  Of course, it's all stuff and nonsense . . . though is it? read Rupert Sheldrake on chemical memory and quantum consciousness and you begin to wonder. Richard Dawkins, look away now.
  Putting that aside, the story of St. Francis's relics is a story worthy of Dan Brown . . no, much better than Dan Brown. They were hidden away so they wouldn't get pinched by those nasty Perugians just down the road, and then, as with St Mark's relics in Venice, they forgot where they had put them, despite tales of the secret of their location being held by a tiny group (including the Pope) and passed on down the centuries. (Those in the know in Venice didn't include the Pope, but then, Venice was always a little suspicious of the Vatican.) Francis's remains weren't rediscovered until the early nineteenth century. St Marks's relics were rediscovered when St Mark himself told them where he was. 
  Now, these tales of the secret knowledge of the whereabouts of relics isn't limited to Italy. Reading The Quest for Becket's Bones by John Butler has the same story. The reformation meant the destruction of superstitious relics, but the monks of Canterbury weren't going to give them up without a struggle. So, just maybe, they hid them - and someone in Canterbury knows where they are!  The favourite theory is that they are in an unmarked grave in from of the chapel of Mary Magdalene in the crypt. Any evidence for this, and for the secret committee supposedly still in the know? One thing. In the Magdalene chapel there burns a red light - the light of martyrdom. Well, the Magdalene wasn't a martyr.  
  Canterbury wasn't our only cathedral visit this year. in July we went to St Albans, and had a look at the new shrine of St Alban, which contains a shoulder-blade supposedly that of St Alban himself. The narrative is a familiar one; the relics were smuggled out of England at the Reformation, and ended up in a church in Germany. This bone was returned in 2002.  
   There are other relics of St Alban in England, but these are in Catholic institutions. St Albans is an Anglican cathedral, and venerating relics does not go down well with the evangelical wing of the Church of England. 
   The comment of the (Catholic) archbishop of Westminster was 'maybe at last last the reformation is over'. I mischievously mentioned this to a member of the clergy at St Abans when we were there. 

  She did not look pleased. 

Crypt, Basilica of San Francesco, Assisi

High altar, San Marco, Venice

Crypt, Canterbury Cathedral

Shrine of St. Alban, St Alban's Cathedral

Blog page 1
                                                                      Home page - explore the site