Westhampton, MA – September 4, 2009
Richard AmmonGlobalGayz.com

Given the current swirl of science, medicine, folk opinions and religious attitudes about male circumcision and its correlation (or not) with HIV infection in Africa and the West, it should not come as a surprise to see a zany book come out of left field regarding circumcision of the Savior Himself.
Can we not be spared the most private details of the most unusual holy relic – Jesus’ foreskin (aka the Holy Prepuce) !? (Yes, Wikipedia has an entry about this item.)

Apparently not:
(From Publishers Weekly (July) . Copyright © Reed Business Information.)

“Until one mysterious day in 1983, the foreskin of Jesus—once one of the Catholic Church‘s holiest of relics—lay nestled in a box in a small church in Calcata, a village in the hills of northern Italy. On that fateful day in December, however, priest Don Dario announced to his tiny congregation that the foreskin had disappeared.”What happened to this holy relic? Who could have taken this piece of the divine that medieval saint Catherine of Siena was purported to have worn as a ring around her finger and about which writers as diverse as Joyce, Stendhal and José Saramago have written? Some postulated that it had been stolen by Satanists. Some said the priest himself was to blame. Some even pointed their fingers at the Vatican.

“In 2006, travel writer David Farley moved to Calcata, determined to find the missing foreskin, or at least find out the truth behind its disappearance. Farley recounts how the relic passed from Charlemagne to the papacy to a marauding sixteenth-century German solider before finally ending up in Calcata, where miracles occurred that made the sleepy town a major pilgrimage destination. Farley’s adventures are told in his recent book An Irreverent Curiosity .”Over the centuries, as Catholic theology evolved, the relic came to be viewed as something of an embarrassment, culminating in 1900 when the Vatican decreed that anyone who talked about the holy foreskin would face excommunication, thus cutting off its status as a holy relic. However, the parish church could display it but only on New Year’s Day.”In this humorous narrative, Farley sets off to solve the mystery of the missing foreskin. Part travelogue, part mystery story and part religious history, Farley’s tale involves local winemakers, actors and priests, many of whom are tight-lipped about the relic’s disappearance.”Farley discovers that no one really knows whether this piece of holy skin ever existed in the first place, and that no one knows its whereabouts now. Although Farley’s often repetitious tale might have been sufficient as a magazine article, his fast-paced storytelling and winning humor raise thoughtful questions about the nature of faith.”

An Irreverent Curiosity interweaves this history with the curious landscape of Calcata, (photo right) a beautiful and untouched medieval village set atop four-hundred-fifty-foot cliffs, which now, due to the inscrutable machinations of Italian bureaucracy, is a veritable counterculture coven. Blending history, travel, and perhaps the oddest story in Christian lore, An Irreverent Curiosity is a weird and wonderful tale of conspiracy and misadventure.

About the Author
David Farley‘s travel writing has appeared in The New York Times (including a feature on Calcata), The Washington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, Slate, and many other publications. He teaches writing at New York University.

An Irreverent Curiosity; published by Gotham Press
Available at Amazon Books

Also see our previous blog on circumcision.