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Example of "Orthodox Revival": the Bones of the Saint Philip Were Almost Sold by Auction

Example of "Orthodox Revival": the Bones of the Saint Philip Were Almost Sold by Auction
Alexander Magidovich 08.02.2007

Relics of Orthodox saint Phillip which tried to sell on the Internet-auction are removed from the tenders. It happened when Russian Orthodox Church named the appearance of this lot "blasphemy".

We shall remind that yesterday in one of Petersburg Internet-catalogues of antiquarian goods appeared an offer to buy relicts of the saint. (The skull and a humeral bone were exposed to the sale). Authenticity of the relics of XVI century, as the seller specified, is proved by inventory number on a box, a year of their receipt to the thesaurus of the Kasan Church (1899) and pre-revolutionary message – “Saint Phillip”. The Russian Orthodox Church called the attempt of sale of sacred relics “monstrous act of blasphemy”.  

"The sale of the relics is a monstrous blasphemy. It should be a shame to the one who does it. But even if these relics are not sacred ones, even in this case it’s a violation of ashes of a person", - the vice-president of the Department of external church communications of the Moscow patriarchy archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin declared.

Actually archpriest not that told lies but entrenched upon the truth. Really, from the point of view of the civil state the sale of relics is an act which is described by a certain clause of the Criminal code, namely Clause 244 "Violation of Bodies of the Dead and Places of their Deposition". It is condemned also by a civil society while church, on the contrary, all medieval history not only bought, sold, exchanged sacred relics, but also stole them and even carried bloody wars because of them.  

Thus, for example, one of the most esteemed relics in the Christian world - relics of evangelist Mark – remaining now in Venice, in the early Middle Ages have been simply stolen by three Venetian merchants in Alexandria Egyptian, the church legend narrates about it and names it just a deed.

Here is the description of this deed: "When Venetians entered the church in Alexandria, they met there keepers of a relic – the monk Staurazio Monaco and the priest Teodoro Prete. Adventurous Venetians offered at once to take out relics of Saint Mark to Venice where they would be surrounded by reverence. Both keepers were also suggested to float to Venice where they were promised riches and honour. The keepers answered that apostle Mark was the educator of that ground and inhabitants of Alexandria called themselves his sons, that’s why they couldn’t give to someone the relics otherwise they would pay for such a deed by their own lives”.

Then Venetians simply stole the relics "having taken relics of the Saint Apostle, they put on their place relics of Saint Claudia, having kept thus all the seals by which the silk coverlet of the relics of Saint Mark was fastened. The legend says that after the relics were taken away from reliquary, so plentiful aroma developed that it was felt not only in church but also all over the city. It excited suspicions of Alexandria Christians who decided to check that relics of the Saint were still in its church. Seals were found untouched and the relics (not of the Saint Mark but of the Saint Claudia) – in reliquary. Wonderful smell was found an explanation and everybody calmed down. Meanwhile to transfer relics on the ship merchants should again resort to cunning: the body of the evangelist was put into a big basket and covered by pork carcass which could not be touched by Saracens even at customs inspection. For greater reliability the basket was hidden in the pleats of the sail of one of the ships".

In general, one can find a lot of such histories in Middle Ages. A number of especially zealous church and civil feudal lords collected the whole collections of various relics which they by hook or by crook bought, exchanged, took away using force. One of such "collectors" was, by the way, patron o Martin Luther elector of Saxony Frederic - as a result of Luther's sermon he at last refused the hobby.

Well, actually, a formal motive for the beginning of Crusades also was Holly Sepulcher.

Now, certainly, nobody would fight because of the relics. But during an epoch of general money's worth the sale of relics on auction does not look as something outstanding. They sell icons, prayer books and the subjects being relics. Why not to sell the bones?

One shouldn’t forget that the agiotage around relics in Middle Ages had also quite mercantile interest - presence of especially esteemed relics sharply lifted appeal of a monastery or a city cathedral which had them. The only type of tourism in the Middle Ages was pilgrimage (short of, certainly, military campaigns) - and incomes in this "business" were as notable as in modern tourist industry, by the way, Martin Luther wrote about it.

The Russian Orthodox Church has just shown rather greater degree of quickness in this type of ancient business having organized tours of various relics - Maria Magdalina's hand, before that a part of a hand of Nikolay Chudotvorets have been taken on set of the Russian cities, crowds of praying - and, certainly, endowing have gathered. In the 21-st century it is not so necessary to exchange, buy or take away relics - it is possible to take them in "leasing" from "lawful owners" and in exchange to arrange trips of  "own" relics – for example, of Sergius Radonezhsky to the Ukraine.

The Russian Orthodox Church had also not badly managed the relics of an imperial family, having in due time "found out" them somewhere near Ekaterinburg. Authenticity of the remains was challenged from their most "finding" but nevertheless, they were recognized as original and owing to it it became possible to carry out canonization of Nikolay II with his family. After that interest to authenticity of the remains was lost, they were buried in a decent way, but not absolutely royally and everybody pretended that there was no problem. Also a business.

So now one shouldn’t be surprised that some businessmen having taken an example from attendants of a cult, decided to expose on a sale the relics of the Saint Phillip which they took nobody knows where. Here you are exact following to a saying "like teacher, like pupil".

And the decision of this morally-ethical problem is not at all in the field of morals and sermons "about the harm of abortions". One shouldn’t create a market where it’s possible to sell everything - from relics of the saints up to alive children for sexual pleasures, one shouldn’t bless what was cursed by Jesus and the first Christians, one shouldn’t serve to Mammon having covered his purse by a robe.  

If there was no demand – there would be no offer.
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