Saturday, 6 March 2010

"El Pio Latrocinio"

The Historia Compostelana calls it, innocently, El Pio Latrocinio: “To Purify with Sacred Rights", but by any other name it was out and out theft!

Imagine this:

On the pretext of visiting various church holdings in and around the area, Diego and two of his canons, Diego and Hugo – who was one of the authors of the Historia Compostela – paid a visit to Giraldo, Bishop, the guardian of the saint’s shrine and the man responsible for the diocese of Braga. Needless to day, there were more in Gelmirez’ retinue than just the bishop and the canons and one author suggests that a few stone cutters may have been thrown in for good company...and an extra mule or two. Diego Gelmirez was received with cordiality and welcomed as a brother in Christ...

For several days Diego enjoyed the hospitality of the diocese, dining with his host in great splendour. Meanwhile, little by little, his partners in crime were removing the remains of not only San Fructuosus but also San Silvestre, San Cucufate and Santa Susana – who now is the co-patron of Santiago de Compostela along with San Roque (note: not Santiago who is the Patron of Spain)! Oh, and the head of St. Victor. Well, why not? While they were at it they also lifted several items thought to have been touched by Jesus Christ himself. It seemed they first worked on one church and the next night shifted their attentions to the next, and so on.

We can learn a great deal about Diego the man when we consider his “reasons” for this unholy theft: they were “not being taken care of properly”.

Yes indeed. Diego said that these would be better taken care of in the Cathedral of Santiago. The trouble was he said no such thing to San Giraldo. In fact he said nothing to him at all about the relics. He just made off with them! By night!

Needless to say, Diego didn’t stick around too long after the deed was done but rushed back to the safe side of the Miño at Tui as fast as he could. The Historia Compostela tells us in glowing imagery what Diego did when he was approaching Compostela. Being the consummate showman that he was, just southwest of the city near Milladoiro, Diego took off his shoes (and so of course did everyone else) and walked barefoot in Triumph into his city, bearing the relics in great splendour. He was welcomed with great joy from the people of the city - the HC tells us in glowing terms - knowing that with this added protection to the city which could only become the greatest site of pilgrimage (read business) in the known world (well almost but who is counting?). You’ve just gotta love it!

It was, of course, a moral outrage even though “legally” Diego had a right to “translate” (love this word from translatio!) the relics wherever he wanted and for whatever reason.

Giraldo wrote to the Pope. Urban wrote to Diego telling him to give his brother his toys back at once!

Diego ignored him.

Such is our hero. I look forward to telling you more of his exploits in the weeks to come.

Meanwhile if you would like a “sneak peak” at the prologue of “Compostela” do check out my website at

1 comment:

  1. Babel Fish translates as:
    In society matter has not had the difficulty equally, so long as has the confidence to do, may make some result at least.

    But I am afraid I still don't understand it!