Look first don’t freak out, if you’re religious or a full-on cult leader, this article will just be talking about how various artifacts, relics and even icons are used by people to make a profit. Hey, it happens, don’t shoot the messenger is all I’m saying. So here is how people make money by selling, buying and even stealing holy relics, making all things holy a black market trade.
Many relic are associated with violent deaths, thusly they are dismembered limbs, heads and skulls. One of the highest profile relic thefts was a severed body part that wasn’t taken in a violent way…it was snipped. Christ’s (yes that Christ) foreskin after being held by the Vatican for an undefined amount of time was stolen. There are two ways that relic thieves work, they either hold the relic for ransom, or they sell it on the holy relic black market (yes, there are rich people that are devout Christians…what makes you question it? The greed, the ruthless thirst for success?).
To add an extra layer of strangeness to the story surround the extreme tip of our Lord and Savior is the fact that it was being held by a priest in his house in a small Italian village. To add insult to injury, the Catholic Church and Papacy have a declaration saying that anyone that says “Holy Foreskin” would be excommunicated….Damn it! I just said it…am I excommunicated? Well, while we wait to find out, let me present you with a crazy conspiracy theory, regarding “The Saviors Foreskin”….uh, oh I did it again. Some people speculate that the Vatican had Christ’s ehm, front wee-wee bit (is that ok?) stolen as they felt uncomfortable with people venerating the front part of anyone’s penis, let alone God’s son.
It’s The Middle Ages All Over Again
During the Middle Ages, holy relics were a hot commodity. They would bring pilgrims to the region, which filled up hotels (or hostels, inns or whatever rented accommodation was called back then), resturants, bars and more importantly the collection plates of the churches that held said relics. At some point, people realized this and started “creating” their own relics, to attract the throngs of believers that would visit and pay to stay in the regions that held the relics.
Surprisingly, this still happens today and has even been adapted to the digital age. A simple eBay search bestows on the loose-handed believer a treasure trove of saintly bone fragment, holy water blessed by your favorite pope and even fragments of cloth that either worn a saint/pope/prophet or was used during the aforementioned prayers. Of course, if the not-so-dark corners of the internet openly sell religious artifact I bet you can imagine what you can find on the oh-so-dark corners of the internet. Here in darkest recesses of the internet are websites that offer “genuine 100% first class relics” including the bones of saints in gilded reliquaries, which may or may not have been stolen from places of worship…which is of no consequence to you; you just want to bask in the saint’s holy glow right?
An Eye For an Eye And A Five Finger Discount For a Hand
I know that’s some Old Testament stuff, but it’s catchy, and if anything an internet writer needs to be catchy, but back to our main story. Greek authorities arrested four priests and a hardcore believer (and yes they have authorities, leave Greece alone you guys) who took a pilgrimage to a monastery that held the hand of the venerated and unpronounceable Saint Haralampos. All of this seemed pretty routine until the four priests and layman, pulled an Ocean’s 11 (A Holy Roller, The Fanatic Five…call me Hollywood). As one of the priests distracted the monk that was entrusted with guarding the artifact the inconspicuous layman broke into the glass case that held the hand and immediately passed that hand of to one of the priests who hid it in those black robes you saw in the picture.
I’m pretty sure they thought that they had God on their side because they hid the hand in the bushes and went for lunch. The monk’s holy sense must’ve been tingling, though, and he alerted the police that the holy hand was missing. The four priests and their incognito friend were soon arrested and when they were searched it was found that they also possessed two unidentified skulls and a jaw. This wasn’t the first case of pilfering either, in a separate case a monk was found digging up holy artifacts from under the monastery in which he lived and selling them on the black market, because even though you’ve got to worry about your immortal soul, your mortal body needs to eat right?
A.R. Broomer Ltd.
Amongst Manhattan’s (hoity-toity) Upper East Side, antique shops is a very specific type of antiquities dealer. A.R. Broomer Ltd. caters to people looking to sanctify their home. No, it’s not icons, the offerings are a bit more…organic. Amanda Broomer’s shop offers bits and pieces collected from all over the world of saints. Being holier apparently cost a pretty penny too, according to this Forbes.com article, a Saint’s skull will run you around 4.500 dollars, a Saint’s tooth will put you back about 300 and a splinter from the cross (yes that cross) will cost you almost a grand ($1000). Don’t think that the relics are all plundered and stolen, though, as people lose their faith, congregations are shrinking, resulting in churches closing and the artifacts they held ending up on eBay. They even have categories: First class which is a relic that is actually a chunk of a saint, or something Jesus touched. Second class which is of holy figures but not saints (like un-canonized popes for example) and third class which are artifacts and relics that have been touched by first class items.
Although the Catholic church prohibits the sale of relics, the purchasing of them is fine and considered a duty, let me explain. If say a devout Catholic stumbles upon a saints skull fragment in a pawn shop, said devotee is obligated to buy it, to save it from being used by a non-believer in a blasphemous way, like as a prop for a horror-punk band show. Oh, by the way if you thought that Broomer’s prices were steep, Christie’s (yes that Christie’s the huge auction house) sold a 19th Century reliquary for $430.000…it held a rock from the mountain Christ transformed on (Mt. Tabor).
Are you a dealer of stolen holy relics, well shame on you, but we’d still like to hear from you. Feel free to leave your comment in the section below. Use a VPN if you are worried about being traced!