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A relic of Pope Clement I is restored to the Westminster Cathedral (Mazur/

Pope Clement I has been dead for almost 2,000 years, but that hasn’t stopped the Holy Roman saint form traveling on what must be the strangest Eurotrip yet. Back in May, British sanitation workers collected a relic containing a fragment of the Pope’s remains in central London. Because the trash collection run included several different locations throughout the city, there is no way for the company, Enviro Waste, to pinpoint exactly who disposed of the Pope’s ovular reliquary.

Instead, Enviro Waste hosted a public forum on the company’s website that asked the public where Pope Clement I’s bones should go. With over 650 responses, the trash company ultimately decided to donate the small relic to Westminster Catholic Cathedral.

Enviro Waste’s owner, James Rubin, said in a statement, “You can imagine our amazement when we realized our clearance teams had found bone belonging to a former Pope — it’s not something you expect to see, even in our line of work. After launching our appeal, we were overjoyed to have the cathedral come forward.”

A close-up of the relic, which is inscribed with the Latin words, Ex Oss S. Clementis PM, which can be translated as “from the bones of Saint. Clement” (Mazur/

Also known as Saint Clement of Rome, the 1st-century Pope is thought to have been a disciple of Saints Peter and Paul. Early Church lists place him as second or third in the list of Roman bishops after Peter. He is also considered to be the first Apostolic Father of the Church. Yet few factual details have been published about his life and death but his remains were reportedly dug up from Crimea and transferred to Italy in 868 CE.

According to apocryphal acta dating from at least the 4th century CE, Clement was banished from Rome under Emperor Trajan because of his Christianity. Exiled to Greek colony of Chersonesus in the Crimea, Clement reportedly performed his first miracle. While his fellow prisoners were suffering from dehydration, the Pope looked up and saw a lamb on a hill. He struck where the lamb was standing with a pickaxe, which released a stream of clean water. His act resulted in the conversion of a large number of local pagans to Christianity, which then resulted in his gruesome martyrdom by the Roman authorities. Saint Clement was tied to an anchor and thrown from a boat into the Black Sea. Legend recounts that every year, the waters part to reveal a divinely built shrine housing the saint’s bones.

A relic of Pope Clement I is restored to the Westminster Cathedral (Mazur/

Apparently one bone got away. Housed in what appears to be a Victorian-era wax-sealed reliquary, the bone fragment of Pope Clement I was likely a family heirloom. The collection of such relics was an extremely popular practice in medieval Europe. Seeking miraculous healing or a conduit to Christ, pilgrims would travel across the continent for primary relics (i.e. the remains of saints) or secondary relics (i.e. things touched by saints). Through the centuries, such relics have been chipped away and disseminated across the globe, leading to a secondary market of fake relics which some say spurred the Reformation.

“It could have been stolen, it could belong to someone and been accidentally thrown out,” University of Turku researcher Georges Kazan also told reporters. “If it’s authentic, it’s not the kind of thing you throw away.”

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Zachary Small

Zachary Small was the senior writer at Hyperallergic and has written for The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, Artforum, and other publications. They have also appeared on WNYC. They tweet and instagram...

6 replies on “First Century Pope Found in London Trash”

  1. Dear journalist.
    Can you not see the connection between your unquestioning regurgitation of this ‘official’ crap and the continuing propagation of flagrant lies in the public realm. There’s a point at which gullibility could actually pass as journalism? No wonder there’s a serious lack of accountability going on in journalism these days. The sooner this tripe is left in the trash and no longer written about as matter of factly, the sooner the world will be free of lying bullshit artists like Trump.

    Here we have a journalist still subscribing to the Church’s 2000 years old insistence that blatant falsehoods should be taken ‘as gospel’. It’s a sliver of bone, probably of animal origin, past off from the day it was manufactured as an ‘authentic relic of a saint’.

    FFS, all three of those words are fake. There is no authenticity, a relic was never “chipped off” the real thing because the real thing doesn’t exist so it it is not a ‘relic’, especially if 1000 years at the bottom of the Black Sea is assumed to be not apocryphal. These ‘relics’ boomed in the medieval period a thousand years after the events of the stories because gullible fools pay good money to see them, especially at a time when the glass encasing them was worth more than most people’s weekly living expenses. The story of this ‘saint’, as even our journalist says, is apocryphal. That is, ‘of doubtful authenticity but taken as true anyway’. Shit made up to impress and make money, and assumed to be true by fools.

    As this ‘saint’ was allegedly the second or third bishop of Rome, he was most likely exiled for being a fundamentalist fanatic vandal of pagan temples, because at the time these fundamentalist fanatic vandals were a constant public nuisance who got exiled and executed for being fundamentalist fanatic vandals. They also called themselves ‘Bishops’ of Rome when they were no more than a public nuisance insisting that 99% of the population were all wrong and they were the new god on the block.

    If you added up all the saint bones in reliquaries around the world it would probably add up to 1000% more body material than accounted for saints and most of it would be sheep bones. Why? Because there’s nothing honourable about being a fanatic vandal so the Church just makes shit up to try and look good, and always has, and you buy into it.

    Do you seriously take it as ‘gospel truth’ that a guy who finds a spring because he saw a ‘lamb’ drinking at it and used a pick to open it up, has performed a miracle?? Firstly, springs appear and disappear all the time. It’s called geology. Secondly that it’s said to be a ‘lamb’ is supposed to represent ‘Christ’ showing this saint where to find water. But lambs rarely ever leave the side of their mother so it’s just more bullshit. Thirdly, opening up a spring with a pick is just a thing. It’s about as miraculous as tripping over a curb.

    The picture of the Westminster gullibles reverentially cradling this ancient piece of flagrant propaganda is absolutely sick-making and what’s more sick-making is that this so-called ‘journalism’ was probably paid for and ultimately whether the ‘journalist’ knows it or not, keeps the bullshit machine ticking over. Did you fact check any of this? No. obviously not and obviously no need to when it’s the ‘gospel truth’. Note that ‘gospel truth’ is actually an oxymoron but who cares in a post truth world? Oh yeah! This is not actually journalism. This is actually propaganda, so this entire comment is actually a waste of time. Actually, the world is doomed by these deluded people, and this contribution is ‘actually’ the saccharine needed to blissfully ignore it.

      1. It’s symptomatic of the global malaise, Hrag. Everyone wonders where the hell Trump came from. A lying, manipulative, mendacious monster who appeared from some unknown nether?! Well here’s a journalist whose ‘oh how quaint’ journalism shows us exactly where Trump type lying comes from and what sustains it. 2000 years of gold plated bullshit is why Trump exists.

        When you say “no-one really cares, except believers”, you’re essentially saying that ‘believers’ are those left over from everyone else, when we all know that 25% of the US population think saints are a real thing (…and that climate change doesn’t exist essentially because neither does science.)

        So, is journalism about serving the truth or serving believers? And if it’s both does that make propaganda the purest from of truth or simply a choice between alternative facts?

        1. I don’t think most people believe the relics are real, I think people are just enjoying the story. And yes, that’s true of “fake news” but it’s also not new, it’s just been weaponized in the service of the state, which has happened before and will happen again, sadly. But I’m all for staying vigilant. In that we can agree.

  2. Coaching from a bad photographer. “Now all hold the relic. It doesn’t matter that you can’t all touch it, just reach your hands out as though you were touching it. Now look at it aaand…” Click!
    Look at the source of the photo – Mazur/ These are the believers doing what they have done for millennia in promoting their version of events.
    That doesn’t mean that Hrag should not publish the story since it is part of our current culture. I think that most Hyperallergic readers, as evinced by the comments, are smart enough to assess the claims made about the relic, and the tone of the piece carries enough salt for us to know that there’s not an inherent endorsement of the premise in the article.

  3. Having read the frightning stupid and poisenous hatred of the comments you should click on the author’s deeplinked name 😉 Zack Schmall aka Klein – and many other Hyper bloggers – reveal the specific background. And the goal of choosing this early jewish, non-philistine and rather greec/christian art item: triggering the hatred button. Zach’s topics show a systematic fishy smell. Also the A$ide of Main$tream Media are kartelli$ed. In $hort: follow $e money

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