Sunday, 27 September 2015

Lessons From The Dordogne - Sacerdos The Fake

The shrine of Saint Sacerdos,
L'église de Saint-Sacerdos, Sarlat-la-Canéda, Périgord Noir, France
Invisible gods just don't cut the mustard when it comes to giving the faithful something to pray to. What they need is bits of body of dead patriarchs; preferably dead patriarchs who were killed 'for their faith' in ways which seem designed to produce plenty of relics for the faithful to worship to.

Dominating the main square in the beautiful Périgord Noir town of Sarlat-la-Canéda is the former Sarlat Cathedral, (Cathédrale Saint-Sacerdos de Sarlat) dedicated to Saint Sacerdos (also known as Sacerdos de Calviac, Sardot, Sadroc, Sardou, Serdon, Serdot) of Limoges, traditionally the first bishop of Limoges who was born in Sarlat in 670 CE and was allegedly martyred in about 720 CE, though no-one seems to know how or why but the important thing is that he was martyred according to local legend.

The cathedral was downgraded to a church in 1801 and the diocese was incorporated in the diocese of Périgueux, but what are claimed to be the remains of Saint Sacerdos are kept in a sealed glass sarcophagus in an ornate chapel in the church. You can't get very close to it but there is what appears to be a clothed wax mannequin in a glass case with a kneeling stool placed thoughtfully in front, so those praying to the bits of dead saint can be seen to be suitably supplicant.

But, powerful though no doubts these bits of dead saint are at granting wishes, very little is actually known about Saint Sacerdos himself and little or nothing is known about how he came to have the reputation of a holy martyr or what he did to earn his place in the Catholic Communion of saints is also a mystery. Some clues however, can be gleaned from the history of the Catholic Church in France and the events immediately preceding Sacerdos' remains being transferred to the newly-created diocese of Sarlat.

The Catholic Church in the South of France was fighting for it's very existence as was the Kingdom of France. Whole towns were converting en masse to Catharism and rebellion was in the air. The loyalty of the King's southern barons could no longer be taken for granted. Basically, Occitania was becoming an independent state. Even the powerful Bishop of Albi, with his entire congregation, had converted to Catharism.

To make matters worse, Cathars were refusing to pay tithes. So, when Pope Innocent III, surely the most repugnant of people to wear St Peters' ring, came to power in Rome, he had a ready ally in King Philip Augustus of France whom he asked to launch a 'crusade' against the Cathars - the so-called Albigensian Crusade after the Bishop of Albi, the Cathar's spiritual leader. The Catholic Church had resorted to its time-honoured tradition of using violence against its enemies, just like Jesus ordered (Luke 19:27).

The result was massacre on a grand scale with entire populations - Cathars, Jews and Catholics alike - of towns like Béziers, being slaughtered because it was impossible to tell one from the other and, in the words of Arnaud, the Cistercian abbot-commander of the besieging force, "Kill them all, the Lord will recognise his own".

In the aftermath of this virtual reconquest and forced reconversion of the Occitan-speaking southerners by the Catholic armies of Philip Augustus and Pope Innocent III, a concerted effort was made to impose a closer control over the people with new bishoprics, new cathedrals and, of course, a new supply of holy martyrs together with their holy body-parts to dedicate these new cathedrals to.

To this end, some bits of body of Saint Sacerdos, a saint no-one knew much about, were transferred from Limoges to the new cathedral in Sarlat, and the new Cathedral had a new martyred saint for the people to pray to. No doubt the 'miracles' followed in due course.

And that, folks, is how to keep a rebellious people, liable to free-thinking and DIY theology, in line, paying their tithes and loyal to their ruling masters.


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2 comments :

  1. It's strange how these ascetic death-cults have such a morbid fascination with (alleged) corpses and getting the faithful to venerate them. Lenin's supposed corpse at the Kremlin, similarly "preserved" from the ravages of decay, is another example.

    One wishes such relics could be examined scientifically. It would be far from surprising if "what appears to be a clothed wax mannequin" turned out to be that very thing.

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    1. It seems that, whilst the spirits of these saints are in Heaven and can influence God, they can't hear prayers unless thy are transmitted via bits of their former body. Even a finger bone or a tooth can hear even silent prayers and pass them on to the souls of their former selves.

      No wonder they don't call religion 'science'. The wonder is that they claim there is no incompatibility between the two.

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