Sunday, December 02, 2007

Now, This Is Really Weird...

Fr. Henry Garnet, SJ
Head of the Jesuit Mission in England
Born: 1555 at Derbyshire
Died: 3 May 1606 at Saint Paul's Churchyard, London

Were the "good old days" of faith so great? What kind of twisted minds come up with things like this?

Book bound in skin of executed Jesuit to be auctioned in England

Not to single out one side or the other (or to minimize today's common atrocities), but what kind of fanatical, blindly fundamentalistic religion was it (on both sides) that drove people to burning, crushing, drawing-and-quartering, hanging, drowning, beheading, flaying, breaking-with-the-wheel, the rack and ladder, strappado and squassation, and making book covers out of people's skin, all in the name of Faith and Truth?

The same kind that drives them into buildings in airliners today? The same that refuses to call waterboarding torture?

Who took perverse pleasure in reading a book bound in the skin of his enemy? What nerve for people of the Old World (on both sides) to call the Native Americans in the New World "savages". They obviously couldn't rightfully claim to be too far removed from savagery themselves.
A book bound in the skin of an executed Jesuit priest was to be auctioned in England.

The macabre, 17th-century book tells the story of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot and is covered in the hide of Father Henry Garnet.

The book, "A True and Perfect Relation of the Whole Proceedings Against the Late Most Barbarous Traitors, Garnet a Jesuit and His Confederates," contains accounts of speeches and evidence from the trials. It measures about 6 inches by 4 inches, comes in a wooden box and will be auctioned Dec. 2 by Wilkinson's Auctioneers in Doncaster, England.

Sid Wilkinson, the auctioneer, said: "The front cover is rather spooky because where the skin has mottled or crinkled there looks to be a bearded face.

"It is a curious thing, and we believe it to be taken from the skin of Henry Garnet," he told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview Nov. 28.

He added that it was common for the skins of executed criminals to be used to cover books about their lives, a process called anthropodermic binding.

Wilkinson said the owner was an academic but declined to name him.

He said the book might be auctioned for hundreds or thousands of British pounds, but added: "It may not even sell. It is quite macabre and not to everyone's taste."

Father Garnet had been acquainted with the plotters and had heard their confessions but he always insisted he strongly opposed their designs and tried to stop them. He was convicted of treason and was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

Father Garnet went to his death pleading his innocence. Members of the crowd prevented the executioner from cutting him down from the scaffold until he was dead. Others pulled on his legs to hasten his end so that he would not have to endure the ensuing horrors.

Garnet's Last Letter Before His Execution


Steve Bogner said...

Great points; I've thought about that too. It's only recently that Christianity seems to have pulled itself out of that sort of behavior, though I'm sure someone can point out some exceptions.

Liam said...

That's pretty cold.

Actually, several books bound with human skin exist, but usually not in one's enemies.

Krum, the 9th-century Bulgar king, turned the Byzantine emperor's skull into a drinking cup.

crystal said...

That's horrible. I've read about and even wrote a short story about him.

Think I've heard that the Nazis did that too with Jewish prisoners' skins.

Jeff said...

Hi Steve and Crystal,

There probably are exceptions, even today. Sadly, the descent into barbarism isn't very far or very steep.


Interesting. I guess people didn't like seeing anything go to waste(?) See, I love having professional historians on hand. People should never say that ancient history and medieval history are boring.

How about Emperor Valerian? According to Lactantius, after he was defeated by the the Persian King Shapur I, Shapur used him as a footstool to climb up onto his horse. After Valerian died, Shapur had him stuffed so he could keep using him for the same purpose.

Now that's cold.

cowboyangel said...

Sadly, the descent into barbarism isn't very far or very steep.

Yes, it is sad. And very true. And the scary thing is that ordinary people are the ones who often wind up committing the worst acts. Either joining in the actual barbarity or being silent when it starts to happen around them.

An interesting but awful story, Jeff.