Monday, 8 October 2012

The brain of St Peter

A Treatise on Relics - John Calvin
(1870) - Project Gutenburg
"In this town (Geneva) there was formerly, it is said, an arm of St Anthony; it was kissed and worshipped as long as it remained in its shrine; but when it was turned out and examined, it was found to be the bone of a stag. There was on the high altar the brain of St Peter; so long as it rested in its shrine, nobody ever doubted its genuineness, for it would have been blasphemy to do so; but when it was subjected to a close inspection, it proved to be a piece of pumice-stone. I could quote many instances of this kind; but these will be sufficient to give an idea of the quantity of precious rubbish there would have been found if a thorough and universal investigation of all the relics of Europe had ever taken place. Many of those who look at relics close their eyes from superstition, so that in regarding these they see nothing; that is to say, they dare not properly gaze at and consider what they properly may be. Thus many who boast of having seen the whole body of St Claude, or of any other saint, have never had the courage to raise their eyes and to ascertain what it really was. The same thing may be said of the head of Mary Magdalene, which is shown near Marseilles, with eyes of paste or wax. It is valued as much as if it were God himself who had descended from heaven; but if it were examined, the imposition would be clearly detected.It would be desirable to have an accurate knowledge of all the trifles which in different places are taken for relics, or at least a register of them, in order to show how many of them are false; but since it is impossible to obtain this, I should like to have at least an inventory of relics contained in ten or twelve such towns as Paris, Toulouse, Poitiers, Rheims, &c. If I had nothing more than this, it would form a very curious collection. Indeed, it is a wish I am constantly entertaining to get such a precious repertory. However, as this is too difficult, I thought it would be as well to publish the following little warning, to awaken those who are asleep, and to make them consider what may be the state of the entire church if there is so much to condemn in a very small portion of it;—I mean, when people find so much deception in the relics I shall name, and which are far from being the thousandth part of those that are exhibited in various parts of the world, what must they think of the remainder? moreover, if those which had been considered as the most authentic proved to be fraudulent inventions, what can be thought of the more doubtful ones? Would to God that Christian princes thought a little on this subject! for it is their duty not to allow their subjects to be deceived, not only by false doctrine, but also by such manifest impositions. They will indeed incur a heavy responsibility for allowing God to be thus mocked when they could prevent it."

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