Skeletal Reliquaries & Mummies

Rott-am-Inn, Germany martyr from the Roman Catacombs (Katakombenheilige)

Rott-am-Inn, Germany martyr from the Roman Catacombs (Katakombenheilige)

Rott-am-Inn, Germany martyr from the Roman Catacombs (Katakombenheilige)

One of two such skeletons at Rott-am-Inn. This one wound up on the cover of the Fortean Times featuring an article I wrote on jeweled skeletal relics, and the other is illustrated in the book–that I have inadvertently given them this publicity is ironic considering that, whoever these skeletons may have been during their lifetimes some 1700 years ago, they were certainly not the martyrs in question. Why am I so steadfastly skeptical about their identities? Without going into too lengthy an exegesis, the fourth century itineraries for pilgrims in Rome list only about 40 tombs of authentic, consecrated martyrs. By the time these skeletons were removed from the catacombs, that number had mysteriously swelled to tens of thousands. The papal secretaries were so overwhelmed with trying to come up with identities for this vastly inflated number of martyrs that apparently out of sheer exasperation they eventually named one simply “St. Anonymous”–which is probably the most honest identification they came up with.
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