At 06:34 PM 11/6/96 +0000, Alasdair MacKintosh wrote:
>Stephen A. Allen wrote:
>> The relics were central to the holiness of the church: altars
>> without relics were supposed to be destroyed, and if a bishop wished to
>> close a church for whatever reason (interdiction, settling a property
>> dispute), several canons instruct him to remove the relics from the altar
> Or, presumably, by denouncing the relics that were stored there? With
> number of fraudulent relics around, it must have been fairly easy to
> accusations of forgery or of simple error.
> "Sorry, that's a sheep's skull, not a man's. We're closing this
> Any known cases of this?
> Then again, maybe there was a conspiracy of silence. Once denunciations
> started to fly, perhaps the laity would start to get suspicious of
Alasdair raises an interesting point here, and I must confess that I have
never come across this question in my research. I would be inclined to
think that this situation (i.e., closing a church because of charges of fake
relics) would not occur for several reasons:
1) The relics in question were not in public view, having been cemented into
a small hollow in the altar, generally refered to as a "confessio." To get
at the relics for purposes of determining their authenticity would entail
breaking open the "confessio," which would essentially desecrate the altar,
something not done lightly or without good reason.
2) At the time of the dedication of the church, a record was (supposedly)
made of the relics on hand. Unless there were challenges at that point, the
relics would persumably be condiered document and hence proved authentic.
3) Although there certainly were a good number of false relics kicking about
in the Middle Ages, there really wasn't much incentive to denounce them. At
the very least, the denouncer risked condemnation and possibly injury at the
hands of those who regarded the relics as true. Cf. also Patrick Geary,
_Furta sacra_, 2nd ed. (Princeton: 1990), 53-55.
4) If there was little incentive to denounce relics as forgeries, then there
was even less incentive to close the church in a given community. In fact,
a good deal of the canon law on churches is aimed, explicitly or implicitly,
at ensuring that all Christian believers have access to a church and that
churches remain open and usable except under extreme circumstances.
In any case, this is my opinion, but I would be interested to hear of anyone
knows of any records of churches being closed or having their dedications
cast into doubt because of problems with their relics.
Stephen A. Allen
The Medieval Institute
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556
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