Notes from the Edge of My Mind

Margaret McManis' blog

Holy Bones and Body Parts-Fantastic Relics

Jan 062018




Dublin Ireland March 2012, "Yes, Officer they stole my heart."

You say, "She stole your heart. Well I wouldn't worry.  You'll get over it, sir."

"No, no you don't understand officer. It wasn't a she it was a gang and it wasn't exactly 'my' heart."

"But, it was someone's heart?"

"Yes, officer and it was 900 years old."

Beg your pardon, Laddie.  You been in the Guinness again?"





The Purloined Heart-The dialogue above is an imagined conversation concerning the theft of a nine-hundred year old heart relic that was stolen from Christ Church cathedral in Dublin, Ireland in 2012. When the interview with priest Rev. Dermot asking for the heart's return was aired in March,  my interest was stirred and I did a bit of research to uncover the details of the theft of the heart. It seems it belonged to St. Lawrence, the first Archbishop of Ireland, who died in 1180AD.

After his death the heart found a home in the cathedral inside a wooden heart-shaped box where it was revered and visited by faithful pilgrims throughout the world. One night a group of men hid inside the church and waited until the priest had gone home and then pried the metal bars surrounding the cage, loose from the cathedral wall. The men worked for a gang from China who specialize in rhino horn and other exotics. The whereabouts of the heart has never been discovered.

The Golden Arm-The arm relic pictured above contains the upper arm bone of St. Andrew and is another example of holy bones that were revered in medieval times for their supposed healing properties. Through the small round window in the arm is visible the sacred bone which would not be valuable to collector's today. However, the reliquaries that house these sacred relics are quite valuable being covered with precious gemstones and hammered gold which is easily melted down and sold.

Other priceless relics fail to make the  headlines today but are just as valuable to collectors. In 2011 a trove of relics were smuggled out of Iraq and ended up in the U.S. The name associated with the theft of these items was the family who owns the Hobby Lobby stores. Thankfully, in this case the relics and artifacts were all returned to the country and so this story had a happy ending which is almost never the case.

Since medieval times relics have been collected and stolen by kings and emperors alike. Charlemagne was purported to have the largest collection in Europe at the time including remnants of the True Cross and the Holy Grail and Helena, the mother of Constantine, traveled to Jerusalem where she collected many relics from Jesus and the Crucifixion. Today the relics are disappearing from churches throughout Europe because of their monetary value rather than religious appeal.

To find out more about this fascinating subject you can check out my Pinterest Page where you can find a picture of the heart-shaped box relic and many other interesting relics as well. Go to Margaret McManis page and click on 'Magical and Religious Objects.'

Happy Hunting 




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