Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 4, 1954

"Full Of Dead Men's Bones" -- No. 2

Luther W. Martin, Rolla, Missouri

"The (Roman Catholic) church of St. Ursula exhibits, to this day, in the so-called 'Golden Chamber, admission fixed at thirty cents, for the benefit of the church,' one hundred and seventy skulls, inclosed in velvet cases, overlaid with silver and precious stones. These are arranged on shelves, and grin ghastly upon the spectator from their richly-decorated cases, which contrast horribly in their mock splendor with the empty eye-sockets and high cheekbones of death. On the head of St. Ursula there is a crown of great value. The attendant monk, as he relates the legend of their death, calls upon the visitor, with great unction, to admire the glossy flaxen hair of the virgin saint, which he is allowed to handle, besides placing his fingers in the cleft skulls of those who came to their deaths by sabre strokes. Most of these skulls bear names, and are thus catalogued:

"No. 2 — 'The Head of St. Etherius, bridegroom of St. Ursula, with the teeth well preserved.

"No. 14 — 'Aurelius, King of Sardinia — and a large large number of bishops, dukes, priests, and soldiers, all numbered, in reckless disregard of their unvirginlike association of sex and employment.

"No. 23 — `St. Benedicta, Duchess, who led a cohort of the holy legion.

"No. 32 — 'Florentia, Queen.

"No. 36 — Florentia, a Princess of Negroes.

"No. 50 — `A small silver shrine, containing parts of Christ's rod. (What rod?)

"Nos. 55 and 57 — `The right arm and foot of St. Ursula — her hair net, etc.

"No. 60 — (The naivet of the printed description of this is particularly funny.) 'A water-cruet used at the wedding meal at Cana, brought to Cologne by St. Bruno. An-eye-witness, who has been in Cana, assures us that there are only five of these water pots, and that the sixth he has seen in our Golden Chamber is perfectly like the five other pots.' (Can we wonder at the simplicity of the flocks, when such is the erudition of the shepherds?)

"Besides these relics there are six hundred and twelve heads, adorned with golden embroidery, in gilded glass chests.

"This church is a Golgotha on a large scale. The walls enclose a solid mass of bones, symmetrically piled for the space of eighty feet in length by ten in height and two in width, which the monks joyfully point out as confirmatory of their legend. As late as the year 1642, some fourteen hundred years after the martyrdom, the liquid blood of St. Ursula was discovered, as fresh as if just shed; but the monks, probably from fear of another discovery, immediately reburied it.

"It is a dismal church, full of bones, and skulls, and coffins, and all sorts of quaint pictures of monkish legends, and gloomy architecture.

"The most conspicuous object of adoration at Rome is a venerable bronze statue of St. Peter; a sitting figure, so ancient that it is generally asserted to be an old pagan deity, perhaps Jupiter himself, or at all events, some eminent heathen character, a consul or magistrate, but now transformed by modern cunning into the sacred image of the fisherman saint.

"This is the particular idol which the Pope loves to venerate in public; consequently all good Catholics follow his example for their souls' sake. The motives of His Holiness possibly are pure and orthodox; but the act itself is idolatry, and as such, becomes not only a license but an example to the multitude. On certain festivals the Pope and high dignitaries go to St. Peter's for this purpose, pressing their lips fervently to the brazen toe, and then touching the foot with their chins and foreheads in a most devout manner, greatly to the edification of a countless multitude, who, in their zeal of imitation, rush toward it with a fury that threatens to endanger the stability of the statue itself. At all hours worshippers are seen before this image. The rich and poor, the noble and peasant, infancy and age, kneel and pray before it, never leaving without bestowing the adoring kiss, and pressing the forehead against the consecrated heel. So numerous are their embraces, that it has been found necessary to protect the toe by an additional covering from being entirely worn away. For centuries has this idolatrous worship been performed, not only unrebuked, but sanctioned and ordered by the Roman clergy as a means of salvation.

"The degree of devotion which this image excites is very various. It would be amusing, were it not mournful, to witness the daily scenes enacted before it. I have seen an old woman, tottering with age, seize the foot in her hands, and kiss the toe twenty times in rapid succession with all the impetuosity and warmth of a young lover, and leave with an unmistakable expression of pious joy. Mothers press the unwilling lips of babes to the cold metal; ignorant of its efficacy, they cry and shrink from the embrace. Their older brothers and sisters kneel, and lift their tiny hands toward it, as we are taught to do when we say ... "Our Father who art in Heaven." Young girls and fashionable mothers in squads approach, bow, take out their laced handkerchiefs, polish the toe clean, and then apply their lips — some devoutly, and others with a hidden laugh, as if nature repudiated the mockery. Old men prostrate themselves before the silent mass of metal as if it were the tabernacle of the 'Most High.' There is no mistaking their sincerity. The worship, however mistaken, gives them spiritual satisfaction.... although no more acceptable before Heaven than the scoffs and jibes of the cold reasoner, who, seeing no religion in this, denies the existence of a Deity altogether." — (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, August 1854.)