Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/68

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48
THE CHURCH.

carried to escape the Danish incursions, two cripples of Touraine, who earned an easy livelihood by beggary, on hearing of the approach of the saintly bones, counselled together to escape from the territory as quickly as possible, lest the returning saint should cure them and thus deprive them of claims on the alms of the charitable. Their fears were well founded, but their means of locomotion were insufficient, for the relics arrived in Touraine before they could get beyond the bounds of the province, and they were cured in spite of themselves. The eagerness with which rival princes and republics disputed with each other the possession of these wonder-working fetiches, and the manner in which the holy objects were obtained by force or fraud and defended by the same methods, form a curious chapter in the history of human credulity, and show how completely the miraculous virtue was held to reside in the relic itself, wholly irrespective of the crimes through which it was acquired or the frame of mind of the possessor. Thus in the above case, Ingelger of Anjou was obliged to reclaim from the Auxerrois the bones of St. Martin at the head of an armed force, more peaceful means of recovering the venerated relics having failed ; and in 1177 we see a certain Martin, canon of the Breton church of Bomigny, stealing the body of St. Petroo from his own church for the benefit of the Abbey of St. Mevennes, which would not surrender it until the intervention of King Henry II. was brought to bear. Two years after the capture of Constantinople the Venetian leaders, in 1206, forcibly broke into the Church of St. Sophia and carried off a picture of the Virgin, said to have been painted by St. Luke, in which popular superstition imagined her to reside, and kept it in spite of excommunication and interdict launched against them by the patriarch and confirmed by the papal legate. Fairly illustrative of this belief is a story told of a merchant of Groningen who in one of his voyages coveted the arm of St. John the Baptist belonging to a hospital, and obtained it by bribing heavily the mistress of the guardian, who induced him to steal it. On his return the merchant built a house and secretly encased the relic in a pillar forming part of the structure. Under its protection he prospered mightily and grew wealthy, till once in a conflagration he refused to take measures to save the house, saying that it was under good guardianship. The house was not burned, and public curiosity was so much ex-