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The role of relics has played an import part in the history of pilgrimage throughout the medieval or middle ages, generally thought to be between the late 5th and mid 15th centuries. During this long period the cult of the relic ebbed and flowed. Some outlandish claims were made, often to give prominence to their location and the supposed miracles that they were said to have produced. Thus, these places would become a drawcard for pilgrims making their way to one of four main destinations, Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Canterbury.

In the early part of the 12th century the Monks of St Medard issued a pamphlet advertising the miracles of the milk tooth of Christ which they claimed was preserved at their abbey. One might wonder why a milk tooth of Christ was preserved at all given that the man would not have likely come to public attention until he began his ministry in his 30′s. Guibert of Nogent, who died in 1125, wrote extensively on religious life. His writings included his treatise On the Relics of the Saints. Guibert put paid the to monks’ claim by pointing out that it was inconsistent with the doctrine of the resurrection which could not be completely true if any part of Christ’s earthly body remained on earth. Considerable suspicion surrounded claims made by Guibert himself of his possession of relics which included pieces of rope which bound Christ to the whipping post and fragments of the crown of thorns. Another ‘relic’ falling into this same category was the blood of Christ.A�In 1351 the Franciscan prior of Barcelona sought to explain the presence of Christ’s blood on earth by stating in a public sermon that the blood shed at the crucifixion lost its divinity and remained on earth after the resurrection. He was promptly prosecuted by the Inquisitor of Aragon and forced to make a humiliating retraction.

Other absurd claims included the two heads of John the Baptist, each in different locations, and milk of the Virgin Mary preserved in a crystal vase at Laon. The ‘relics’ of Christ preserved at Rome, which included the foreskin and umbilical cord caused some embarrassment to Pope Innocent III who thought he’d leave it up to God to explain their authenticity.

Possession of a relic could result in a town or city being added to a pilgrim route. In the mid 11th century a second phial of the blood of Christ was unearthed in the garden of the hospice of St Andrew in Mantua, the first having been ‘discovered’ there around 804.A� This quickly resulted in Mantua becoming an important place on a pilgrimage to Rome.

(I find this a fascinating subject and one upon which I will touch again in the weeks ahead. In writing this blog I have relied exclusively on an extensively researched and wonderfully entertaining book by Jonathan Sumption, The Age of Pilgrimage, Hidden Springs, 2003, which was first published as Pilgrimage in 1975 by Faber and Faber.) By the time the band chugs into that justbuyessay.com first refrain, heads are banging