The Relic Master: A Novel

Simon and Schuster, 2015 - 380 ページ
Christopher Buckley’s “hilarious, bawdy, and irreverent frolic of a tale” about a sixteenth-century relic hunter and the artist Albrecht Dürer who conspire to fabricate Christ’s burial shroud reads “like Indiana Jones gone medieval” (USA TODAY).

The year is 1517. Dismas is a relic hunter who procures “authentic” religious relics for wealthy and influential clients. His two most important patrons are Frederick the Wise and soon-to-be Cardinal Albrecht of Mainz. While Frederick is drawn to the recent writing of Martin Luther, Albrecht pursues the financial and political benefits of religion and seeks to buy a cardinalship through the selling of indulgences. When Albrecht’s demands for grander relics increase, Dismas and his artist friend Dürer fabricate a shroud to sell to the unsuspecting noble. Unfortunately Dürer’s reckless pride exposes the trickery, so Albrecht puts Dismas and Dürer in the custody of four mercenaries and sends them all to steal Christ’s burial cloth (the Shroud of Chambéry), Europe’s most celebrated artifact. On their journey to Savoy where the Shroud will be displayed, they battle a lustful count and are joined by a beautiful female apothecary. It is only when they reach their destination they realize they are not alone in their intentions to acquire a relic of dubious legitimacy.

“A rollicking good time, Christopher Buckley has transported his signature wit and irreverence from the Beltway to sixteenth-century Europe in The Relic Master” (GQ). This epic quest, “as rascally and convivial as any that Mr. Buckley has written” (The Wall Street Journal), is filled with fascinating details about art, religion, politics, and science; Vatican intrigue; and Buckley’s signature wit “holds the reader till the very last page” (The New York Times Book Review).

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LibraryThing Review

ユーザー レビュー  - mamzel - LibraryThing

The subject of this book reminded me of Baudolino by Umberto Eco. Churches used relics of saints to draw patrons and their money to their door. Dismas hunts these bones and other detritus for two ... レビュー全文を読む

LibraryThing Review

ユーザー レビュー  - justagirlwithabook - LibraryThing

Picked this up from Politics & Prose in DC and never would've known it existed otherwise. Described as a mix between Monty Python and I'm not sure what ... but I really enjoyed it! It reminded me ... レビュー全文を読む


Rome 2017
Part One 1 Basel 1517
Boat of the Fisherman
The Shroud of Mainz
A Plan
Lothar Redux
Charles the Good
Three Kings
Very Awkward

Render unto Caesar
To Hell with Purgatory
On My Honor
A Great
Not a Great Day
Cardinal Sin
Is Something Amiss?
Cunrat Nutker Unks
Count Lothar
The Dance of Death
The Bauges
Ecce Sindon
That Was a Viewing Eh?
It Do the Trick?
Consummatum Est
At the Bibulous Bishop
What If They Drink the Wine?
Let Us Ambulate Together
The Last Supper
Places Gentlemen
Suggestions Gentlemen?

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著者について (2015)

The Relic Master 1 Basel, 1517
Dismas might have purchased the finger bone of the Apostle Thomas, but there was something not quite right about the man offering it for sale.

For one, his asking price was far too low. A relic of the finger that had probed the spear wound in Christ''s side after his resurrection would fetch as much as forty or fifty gulden. And he was asking only fifteen. More troubling was the absence of fragrant odor when Dismas held it to his nostrils. A genuine relic was always pleasant to the nose. Finally, there was the variety of items the fellow had for sale: the tongue (entire) of St. Anthony of Padua; an ampulla of the Virgin''s breast milk; a stone from the scala santa, the steps of Pilate''s palace; a few pieces of straw from the sacra incunabulum, the holy manger in Bethlehem; and shavings from the chains of St. Peter. A suspiciously vast array of goods.

Experience inclined Dismas to trust more in dealers who concentrated in specific fields. Say, relics of the Diocletian persecution. Or brandea, items that had been in physical contact with the Holy Family. Relics of St. Anne, mother of the Virgin, a category at the moment in huge demand.

Most revealing of all: when Dismas thanked the man and turned to leave, he immediately lowered the price to five gulden. One saw more and more of this disgraceful behavior these days at the Basel Relic Fair.

* * *

Dismas stood in the market square in front of the new town hall with its marvelous polychrome arcades. His glance swept over the expanse, humming with commerce. There must be over three hundred exhibitors.

He noted with amusement two adjoining booths, each advertising thorns from the Crown of Thorns. Unfortunate placement. But there were so many exhibitors these days. Space was tight. Placards and banners flapped in the late afternoon breeze. One advertised a Mandylion, another a sudarium, another a foot (whole) of the Magdalene. There was always a surcharge for an entire appendage.

On the north side of the square, by the fish market, appropriately enough, was this year''s most-talked-about piece: an entire boat avouched to have belonged to St. Peter in his pre-apostolic Galilean fishing days.

Owing to his status in the relic community, Dismas had been given a preview. The asking price, three thousand gulden, was preposterous, even if it were authentic, which Dismas highly doubted. To the consternation of its seller, Dismas crawled underneath with a magnifying glass. There he found wormholes of the type made by saltwater worms.

Dusting himself off, he gave the fellow a look of rebuke. Odd, wasn''t it--saltwater worm damage, in a freshwater fishing vessel?

The dealer cleared his throat and said, well, see, the boat had been briefly anchored in the Mediterranean, at Joppa, before, er, being taken aboard ship for Marseille.

"Um. Well, thanks for letting me have a look."

A shame, Dismas thought, for what a splendid centerpiece it would make in the courtyard of the castle church in Wittenberg. Or the cathedral cloister at Mainz. Someone would buy it, perhaps a recently ennobled Bohemian, who''d paint it in garish colors and put it in his moat. In time he''d grow bored of it and allow his children to reenact famous sea battles in it. And finally it would rot and sink, and the nobleman would say that he''d always had his doubts about it.

More and more, these days, there was an emphasis on size. Last year, the English dealer Arnulfus of Tewksbury had brought to Basel three whole mummified camels. These, he averred, were the very ones that had carried the magi to Bethlehem, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Dismas friskily asked Arnulfus why he had not also brought with him the star in the east? Really, it was all getting a bit out of hand.

How many years now had he been coming to the relic fair? His first time was in 1508, so--nearly ten, now. Realizing this made him feel old, for embedded in the math was the alas undeniable fact that he was now past thirty years of age.

He thought back to the time he''d first stood here in the square, almost in this very spot. There''d been a quarter the number of booths and tents. Who''d have imagined such growth as this? The annus mirabilis was 1513. These last four years had been almost indecently profitable for Dismas, owing to the passion--lust, really--for relics on the part of his two principal clients.

He bought a grilled sausage and a mug of lager from a vendor and, finding shade, consulted his purchase lists.

Frederick''s wish list had four dozen items. Albrecht''s was, as usual, more extensive: nearly three hundred. Though he would never admit it--even to Dismas, his chief supplier--Albrecht was determined to catch up to Frederick, whose collection now stood at more than fifteen thousand holy relics. Dismas sighed. He was tempted to blow Albrecht''s entire budget on the St. Peter''s fishing boat and be done with it. Frederick''s list was, no surprise, far more discerning than Albrecht''s. Frederick wanted quality; Albrecht, quantity.

"Saint Bartholomew--jaw particles, teeth, skull fragments (frontal)."

Frederick was mad for St. Bartholomew. Insatiable. He owned more than forty relics of the apostle, including his entire facial skin. Bartholomew had been flayed alive by the King of Armenia for introducing Christianity. The apostolic epidermis was mounted in Wittenberg in a splendid jeweled monstrance.

There were theories about Frederick''s Bartholomew obsession. One was that it was due to Bartholomew being the patron saint of bookbinders. Frederick was a great bibliophile. A more mischievous theory was that it was snobbery, Bartholomew being the only apostle born of noble blood, though Dismas could find no scriptural authority for this. Sometimes, when Frederick was in the right mood, Dismas teased him about it.

St. Afra was also on Frederick''s list. Always a challenge, Afra. She reflected Frederick''s current taste for German saints. She''d been a prostitute of the Roman Temple of Venus in what was now Augsburg. She converted. When she refused to renounce her new god, she was taken to an island in the river Lech, tied to a stake, and suffocated with smoke. Frederick wanted her relics because she was a martyr of the Diocletian persecution and Diocletiana had long been a theme with him.

Dismas rarely proposed a specific relic unless it was something truly unusual or spectacular. Frederick''s knowledge of the field was vast and scholarly. He''d been collecting relics since 1493, when he made his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He knew exactly what he wanted and, happily for Dismas, he wanted a lot. His collection was now second only to the Vatican''s, which numbered some seventy-six thousand. But there was really no competing with Rome for relics.

And yet--Dismas suspected that Frederick was competing with Rome. Certainly, Albrecht was competing with Frederick. Unlike Frederick, Albrecht was suggestible, especially where vogue entered in. When fourth-century Slavic martyrs became the rage, Albrecht dispatched Dismas to comb the Adriatic coast and corner the market. Frederick was above these vicissitudes. He set the chic.

Dismas returned to his list.

St. Agatha, patroness of wet nurses. A young and beautiful Sicilian girl, virgin, lusted for by the Roman consul. (How lucky, the homely, unlusted after female Christian converts.) Agatha refused the consul''s attentions and was handed over to the torturers. They sliced off her breasts, which miraculously grew back. The now livid consul ordered her to be roasted to death over coals. Frederick wanted a nipple, but any other part would do.

After months and months of inquiry, Dismas reported to Frederick that no Agathan nipples were to be had. However, he had succeeded in locating a partly melted gold ring said to have been on her finger when she met her terrible but sanctifying end on a brazier in Catania, Anno Domini 250.

As for St. Afra, another martyr requiring assiduous searching, he''d finally located a fragment of her patella. Given the time and effort that had gone into these two commissions, Dismas could have charged more than his usual commission. But he didn''t. If the search had been for Albrecht, he''d have surcharged triple.

He consulted Albrecht''s list. Weaponry. Albrecht had a penchant for knives, daggers, axes--anything that had been used on a saint. One of his most treasured pieces was the hammer used to drive the nails into Christ''s hands and feet.

Item: "Maurice--sword." The one used to decapitate St. Maurice, Roman legionary of Thebes. During a campaign to punish the insurrectionary Helvetii, the Roman commander had ordered his men to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Maurice and other Christian converts in the ranks demurred. The commander ordered decimation, every tenth soldier killed. (Hardly morale boosting, in the middle of a campaign.) When the converts still refused, a second decimation was carried out. When they refused again, the commander ordered the entire troop slaughtered.

No easy commission, this, but Dismas had a good relationship with a dealer in St. Gallen who''d sent word that he thought he could lay his hands on at least a portion of the sword hilt.

Dismas worked his way down Albrecht''s list. Not another? Yes, another St. Sebastian arrow.

Albrecht had a particular taste for apos