Jeanne d’Arc Relics Faked

Relics of St Jeanne, authenticated by the Church over a century ago and housed in a French museum, have been uncovered as fakes.

I admire the sleuthing that went into the discovery, including these findings:

* The remains include burned pine pollen, consistent with an embalming process–not to mention the factor that pine trees did not grow in fifteenth century Normandy.

* Vanilla, of all substances, was also discovered–it usually is produced by decaying tissue, not charred flesh.

* The burned “flesh” attached to bones was entirely vegetable and mineral material; no animal flesh, hair, muscle or fat.

* Amazingly, Phillippe Charlier, a forensic scientist found evidence of something from Egypt:

Two other lines of evidence seem to clinch the mummy origin. Carbon-14 analysis dated the remains to between the third and sixth centuries BC. And the spectrometry profiles of the rib, femur and black chunks matched those from Egyptian mummies from the period, and not those of burnt bones.

Charlier points out that mummies were used in Europe during the Middle Ages in pharmaceutical remedies. The 1867 discovery date also fits the period when Joan of Arc, who had been forgotten for centuries, was rediscovered by historians and created as a national myth. Someone might have forged the relics at this time in an attempt to reinforce her importance.

Relics debunked: it’s a difficult fact to ponder. Does it detract from the faith of believers and from the regard of non-believers? As I’ve been reading through Ad Gentes this week, it remains true that the better Christian witness is perhaps not the material miracles of things, but rather the expressed faith and charity of flesh and blood human beings. Jeanne d’Arc and other saints speak more clearly through their stories of spiritual heroism. And the heroism and faith they inspire in today’s believers.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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