A handy compendium that covers major known but undiscovered Judeo-Christian religious relics, ranging from the bones of saints and prophets to artifacts associated with the Crucifixion.
With no real new ground to break here, Sora does a creditable job of enumerating relics that have had an impact on the faithful and on the religious establishment, assembling interesting apocrypha and updating their status. He's forthright on the phenomenon the Catholic Church calls "multiplication," otherwise known as fakery: enough pieces from the True Cross extant "to rebuild Noah's Ark," multiple heads of John the Baptist, etc. Yet records of miracles and paranormal events associated with numerous relics, replete with a host of unbiased witnesses, continue to persist and continue to resist debunking. When confronted with disproving the Shroud of Turin—supposedly the winding sheet of Christ's corpse—several scientists of indisputable world repute, the author points out, have leaned toward authentification. In fact, three separate radiocarbon dating tests indicating origin in the medieval period constitute the principal negative data; whereas cloth type, pollen accrual, etc., point to timely origin in the Middle East as do the blood type and DNA extracted from the Shroud. Enduring controversies, however, continue to be associated with a wealth of fascinating historical and cultural material like. There's the Ark of the Covenant, for instance, which leads Sora to plausible hiding places in Ireland, Scotland, France, and Ethiopia (where its supposed residence is celebrated annually), as well as Jerusalem. The once dormant relic trade itself may be energized again thanks to the Internet. While one smuggler simply FedExed saintly remains to the US not long ago, an opponent of spurious relic trading who is quoted by Sora finds eBay, despite its attempts to ban body parts of any nature, a "charnel house of holy bones," with offerings often described in perfect churchly Latin and men of the cloth among alleged buyers.
Nonreligious, readable and occasionally fascinating. (Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2004)
“…offers stories behind the most sacred.” (Publishing News, 08/10/04)