An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town

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9781592404544: An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town

A tour through the centuries and through a bizarre Italian town in search of an unbelievable relic: the foreskin of Jesus Christ

In December 1983, a priest in the Italian hill town of Calcata shared shocking news with his congregation: The pride of their town, the foreskin of Jesus, had been stolen. Some postulated that it had been stolen by Satanists. Some said the priest himself was to blame. Some even pointed their fingers at the Vatican. In 2006, travel writer David Farley moved to Calcata, determined to find the missing foreskin, or at least find out the truth behind its disappearance. Farley recounts how the relic passed from Charlemagne to the papacy to a marauding sixteenth-century German solider before finally ending up in Calcata, where miracles occurred that made the sleepy town a major pilgrimage destination. Over the centuries, as Catholic theology evolved, the relic came to be viewed as something of an embarrassment, culminating in a 1900 Church decree that allowed the parish to display it only on New Year's Day.

An Irreverent Curiosity interweaves this history with the curious landscape of Calcata, a beautiful and untouched medieval village set atop four-hundred-fifty-foot cliffs, which now, due to the inscrutable machinations of Italian bureaucracy, is a veritable counterculture coven. Blending history, travel, and perhaps the oddest story in Christian lore, An Irreverent Curiosity is a weird and wonderful tale of conspiracy and misadventure.

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About the Author:

DAVID FARLEY's travel writing has appeared in The New York Times (including a feature on Calcata), The Washington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, Slate, and many other publications. He teaches writing at New York University.

From Publishers Weekly:

Until one mysterious day in 1983, the foreskin of Jesus—once one of the Catholic Church's holiest of relics—lay nestled in a box in a small church in Calcata, a village in the hills of northern Italy. On that fateful day in December, however, priest Don Dario announced to his tiny congregation that the foreskin had disappeared. What happened to this holy relic? Who could have taken this piece of the divine that medieval saint Catherine of Siena was purported to have worn as a ring around her finger and about which writers as diverse as Joyce, Stendhal and José Saramago have written? In this humorous narrative, journalist Farley sets off to solve the mystery of the missing foreskin. Part travelogue, part mystery story and part religious history, Farley's tale involves local winemakers, actors and priests, many of whom are tight-lipped about the relic's disappearance. In 1900, the Vatican decreed that anyone who talked about the holy foreskin would face excommunication, and thereby cut off its status as a holy relic. Farley discovers that no one really knows whether this piece of holy skin ever existed in the first place, and that no one knows its whereabouts now. Although Farley's often repetitious tale might have been sufficient as a magazine article, his fast-paced storytelling and winning humor raise thoughtful questions about the nature of faith. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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