Calcata: Where's the Holy Prepuce?

Precariously nestled on the edge of a cliff, the medieval village of Calcata in Italy is not your typical picturesque Italian town. It is a small, picturesque village located in the province of Viterbo, in the Lazio region of Italy, some 50 kilometres north of Rome. It is known for its interesting architecture, stunning views of the surrounding countryside, and a rather unusual historical claim to fame: the relic of the Holy Prepuce, or the foreskin of Jesus Christ. Prepuce is a Latin word from prae- ('fore-') and pūtos ('penis').
The story of Calcata’s claim to the Holy Prepuce can be traced back to the Middle Ages. According to local legend, the relic was brought to Calcata in the 16th century by a soldier who participated in the Crusades. The soldier claimed to have acquired the relic from a monk in the Holy Land. Another legend, somewhat less heroic, claims that in AD1527, a soldier in the German army was helpful in looting the Sanctum sanctorum (the Temple of Jerusalem). Not much of a provenance, I agree.

The Holy Prepuce was then placed in the Church of San Pietro in Calcata, making the town a destination for pilgrims. The Holy Prepuce was considered a rare and significant relic in the Catholic Church. However, its authenticity was a subject of controversy and skepticism, and many other churches also claimed to possess the Holy Prepuce. The relic was essentially forbidden from being worshipped by a papal decree issued in 1900 by Pope Leo XIII, and eventually faded into obscurity.
In defiance of the papal decree, Calcata continued to stage an annual procession on the Day of the Holy Circumcision to honour the relic. In 1983, however, parish priest Dario Magnoni had to announce: "This year, the holy relic will not be exposed to the devotion of the faithful. It has vanished. Sacrilegious thieves have taken it from my home."

He had reportedly kept the sacred relic in a shoebox in the back of a wardrobe. Conveniently citing the Vatican's decree of excommunication, Magnoni refused to further discuss the event, as does the Vatican.

As a result, theories of the crime vary from theft for lucrative resale to an effort by the Vatican to quietly put an end to the practice it had attempted to end by excommunication years ago. Its current location is a mystery.

Nowadays, Calcata is home to a thriving artistic community.

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