Wednesday, 27 April 2011

See the late Pope's blood – and learn more about relics in our new issue

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly):

Arm reliquary of the Apostles
(Germany, c. 1190), NB: does not
contain blood of previous Pope
I'm sure many of you will have been as intrigued as I was by the news that the Catholic Church extracted and preserved a few phials of Pope John Paul  II's blood as he lay on his deathbed, for use as part of a relic which will go on display this Sunday to mark the late Pontiff's beatification. Here's a snippet from the Guardian's report on the definitely-not-at-all-grisly affair:
"The Vatican said doctors had taken a quantity of blood from the pontiff while he lay dying, which had been sent in four containers to the blood transfusion centre at the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome. Two "remained at the disposal" of his private secretary, Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was later made a cardinal and the archbishop of Krakow.

The remaining two phials stayed in the hospital where they were "devoutly safeguarded by the nuns" who work there as nurses. Both had been put into reliquaries: ornate relic containers that are usually made with precious metals and stones."
Of course, the creation of relics is a practice as old as the Catholic Church itself, and it's something we cover in the latest issue of New Humanist, with historian Charles Freeman reminding us of the cruelty and exploitation that lay behind the artistic beauty of medieval reliquaries. It's a subject we'll be hearing lots about it in the coming months, with the British Museum's exhibition set to display a stunning array of medieval relics in its Treasures from Heaven exhibition, which opens on 23 June.

The new issue of New Humanist is out now in stores across the UK, in selected branches of WH Smiths andindependent newsagents – just enter your postcode on our homepage to find your nearest stockist.
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