Friday, May 27, 2011

Booty: Get Ahead

Triple P’s vaguely morbid fascination with venereal diseases springs from the undeniable fact that such illnesses were extremely prevelent among sailors. Dean King in his scholarly and entertaining book A Sea of Words rightly calls syphilis (and by extension gonherrea, chlymidia and the like) “… almost an occupational hazard among sailors”. This would have been true for all men afloat, and for the women they associated with as well, up to and indeed well after the discovery of penisilin. One hopes that the widespread use of the humble condom has shut that door, so to speak.

It was therefor with a certain delight that I discovered this article from BBC News Northern Ireland. According to the brief piece the surprisingly well preserved skull of Saint Vitalis of Assisi will go up for auction Sunday. This is one to keep your eyes on, Brethren, as the dear saint is the patron of “genital diseases”.

According to my dusty and ancient Book of Patron Saints, Vitalis was born in Umbria in 1295. He was a wild young man and actually spent time around the docks of Genoa in sporting houses and gambling dens. At some point he decided to straighten up and a pilgrimage to various holy sites in his native Italy led him to take vows in the Benedictine order. He ended up at the hermitage of Maria di Viole in Assisi where he debased his body regularly and became a sought after counselor. He died May 31, 1370 and miraculous cures of bladder infections and geneital concerns were almost immediately attributed to him. He was cannonized some time around 1390.

The saint’s skull, lovingly preserved among flowers and palm fronds in a Queen Anne case, came into the possession of “… an Anglo-Irish family from County Louth” in the late 17th century. Evidently one of the genteel family’s members acquired the head while on his (or her) European grand tour. Though the relic was originally displayed in the family’s great hall, it was more recently housed in what the article calls “an outhouse”.

A curious aside comes in the form of the local Benedictine monks who, when asked for information about Saint Vitalis, had to Google one of their own prior to declining to make a statement on “… his or anyone elses head.” Now is that gratitude?

Maybe not, but you can own the relic yourself. The auction that includes the patron saint of genital concerns’ head begins Sunday, May 29 at 3:00 PM (local time) and will be held at Annesbrook House in Duleek, County Meath, Ireland. Bring your debit card as loose change won’t get this sale done. The estimated value is between 800 and 1,200 euros or 1,141 and 1,712 U.S. dollars.

Header: Relic box and skull alleged to be that of St. Vitalis of Assisi via


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! That actually seems pretty cheap (or perhaps I should say that seems like a relatively good deal) for the head of a Saint, particularly the patron saint of “genital diseases”. If only I had a couple of G large lying around, I might even try to bid on it for ya. Alas...

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy! It's probably better off with somebody else, after all.

Undine said...

"Evidently one of the genteel family’s members acquired the head while on his (or her) European grand tour."

You know, Pauline, it's really not fair to spring sentences like that at me before I've had my morning coffee.

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Undine! You're right; I apologize. Rereading it, that post is full of double entendre. Yikes.