Calvin: Time For An Inventory (4)

Then they have the waterpots in which our Saviour turned the water into wine, when he was present at the marriage in Cana of Galilee. I would fain know who was their custodier all the time, and afterwards made presents of them. For it is always to be observed, that they did not make their appearance till eight hundred or a thousand years after the miracle was performed. I am not acquainted with all the places where these are shown. I know, however, that they have them at Ravenna, Pisa, Clugny, Angers, and in the church of St Salvator in Spain. But not to dwell on this, it is easy to prove the imposture by merely taking a look at them. For some have only the capacity of a gallon measure, a little more or less, while others could contain eight firkins. Let these be reconciled with each other if it be possible, and then I will let them have their waterpots without dispute. But not contented with the pots, they have thought proper to have the liquor also. For at Orleans they give out that they are in possession of some of the wine; they say it belonged to the Architriclinus, (the master of the feast.) The people think this Architriclinus is the bridegroom’s name, and they are still kept in their ignorance. Once a-year they give the smallest possible tasting on the tip of the tongue to those who are pleased to bring some offering, and they are told that they are quaffing the wine which the Lord made at the feast. Nor is the quantity ever diminished; only the cup requires now and then to be filled up. I am not aware of the size of his shoes which are said to exist at Rome in the place which they call the Holy of Holies, and whether he used them when he was a boy, or after manhood; but it is all alike. For the observations I have already made are sufficient to show how impudent it is at this time of day to pass off, as belonging to Christ, shoes of which the Apostles had never heard.

Let us now come to relics of the last Supper, which Christ celebrated with the Apostles. The table is at Rome, in the church of Joannes Lateranensis, some of the bread in that of St Salvator in Spain, while the knife with which the Paschal Lamb was cut up is at Treves. Be it observed, Christ celebrated the Supper in a hired room, and, of course, on quitting it, left the table behind. Nor do we read that it was carried off by the Apostles. Some years after, as we have said, Jerusalem was destroyed. What semblance of probability is there, that that table was found out seven or eight hundred years after? Besides, tables were at that time quite different in shape from those now in use. For at meals, the custom was not to sit, but to recline; this is clearly shown in the gospel. There is here, therefore, a manifest falsehood. What more? At the church of Mary Insulane, near Lyons, is shown the cup which contained the Sacrament of his blood which he gave to the Apostles to drink. It is also to be seen in the Vivarais in a certain monastery of Augustins. Which are we to believe? But the case is still worse with the dish in which the Paschal Lamb was placed. For it is at Rome, and at Genoa, and at Arles. Perhaps the custom of that time was different from ours. For as in the present day, a variety of meats are put into one dish; so there must then have been various dishes for one meat, if credit is to be given to these holy relics. Can falsehood be more clearly proved? The same thing occurs in the case of the linen towel with which our Saviour wiped the feet of the Apostles, after he had washed them. There is one at Rome, in the church of Joannes Lateranensis, and another at Acqs in Germany, in the church of Cornelius, with the mark of Judas’ foot upon it; one or other of these must be spurious. What, then, shall our judgment be? Let us leave them to debate the matter among themselves, until one shall have made out something like a case. Meanwhile, let us hold it a mere imposition to attempt to persuade men that a towel, which our Saviour left in the house in which he celebrated the Supper, took its flight to Italy or Germany, five or six hundred years after the destruction of Jerusalem. I have omitted to mention the bread on which the five thousand were miraculously fed in the wilderness. A piece of it is shown at Rome, in the church of Maria Nova, and a smaller piece in that of St Salvator in Spain. Scripture relates, that a portion of the manna was reserved as a memorial of the great miracle by which God fed the Israelites in the desert. But though there are five relics of the loaves, the Evangelist does not relate that any of them was preserved for such a purpose; nor is the thing mentioned by any ancient history, or by any of the ancient Doctors of the Church. It is easy, therefore, to conclude, that that which is now shown is of a more recent batch. We must come to the same conclusion, concerning the branch which is in the church of St Salvator in Spain. They say it is the one which Christ carried when he entered Jerusalem, on the feast of the Passover, or, as they call it, Floridos. But it is no where said in the gospel that Christ carried a branch; the whole, therefore, is manifest fiction. The same rank must be assigned to other relics which are exhibited at the same place, namely, the earth on which our Saviour’s feet rested when he raised Lazarus. Who, pray, marked the place so carefully, as to be able, after the destruction of Jerusalem, by which every thing in Judea was changed, accurately to point out the very spot?

John Calvin | “An Admonition Showing the Advantages Which Christendom Might Derive From an Inventory of Relics” in Tracts Relating to the Reformation, Vol. 1 | Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1844, pp. 298–300

Calvin’s Inventory Of Relics


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