At 15:53 19/10/97 -0400, you wrote:
>> sometimes get the odd feeling that I am seeing too many nails in museums, as
>> well as too many scraps of wood. Not quite enough nails to build a house,
>> but more than there ought to be.
>I realize that this is intended as pleasantry but have you really seen
>nails in any museum at all? I had the impression that the nails were
>never circulated as relics but (according to fourth century tradition)
>melted down by the empress Helena and incorporated into the military
>dress of her son Constantine to protect him in battle. On the other
>side, however, the question of the number of original nails has always
>been a puzzle to me as painters and sculptors seem to have no clear
>convention as to whether there were three or four of them. Some
>depictions show one nail for both feet and some have one for each foot.
>It has always surprised me that there is apparently no authoritative
>guidance on this point.
Concerning the number of nails, there was indeed an artistic and theological
polemic; romanesque crucifixes are always with four nails, and a lot of
gothic ones with three; this innovation was jugded as heretical by Lucas of
Tui, a 13th c. bishop of Leon; he was convinced that the three nails
crucifix was an albigensian invention. (See C. Gilbert, "A Statement on the
Aesthetic Attitude Around 1230", *Hebrew Univ. Studies in Literature and the
Arts*, XII (1985), pp. 125-52.)
In Spanish Baroque art painters as Pacheco or Velazquez returned to
the four-nailed Christ, as "mas decoroso".
>As to the wood of the cross--that is another story! In Peirefite's
>wonderful novel "The Keys of Saint Peter" there is a scene I often
>recount to my skeptical students. A group of Roman socialites goes on a
>tour of the Vatican relic collection and are shown duplicates of many
>relics that a sane person would suppose were unique (like the head of
>John the Baptist). When questioned about this the relic-guardian throws
>up his hands, raises his eyes to heaven and exclaims, "What a miracle!"
In Galicia (north of Spain) existed a hermit where two cranes were kept. One
of them was bigger than the other. The "sancristan" -a sort of local guide
and guardian- explained that both of them were the heads of San Benitinno
(Saint Benedict); the little one is the relic of Saint Benedict when he was
a child, and the big belonged to the adult...
Of course this is a joke!