Talk:Holy Prepuce

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Former featured article Holy Prepuce is a former featured article. Please see the links under Article milestones below for its original nomination page (for older articles, check the nomination archive) and why it was removed.
Main Page trophy This article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page as Today's featured article on September 14, 2004.
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August 9, 2004 Featured article candidate Promoted
November 14, 2006 Featured article review Demoted
Current status: Former featured article


Where is the evidence even for the existence of this supposed relic? All I see mentioned are quotes from old anti-Catholic sources, who had an interest in invoking spurious but laughable relics as a way to mock what they saw as the absurdity of Catholicism. None of the Catholic sources referred to mention the "Holy Prepuce" at all. And on the web, the only references to this relic are quotes from this very article! What about the supposed theft of such a relic in 1983? Where is the news article referring to that? Not, apparently, available. --Randomcritic.

If you search a little deeper on the net, you'll find some neutral and even pro catholic sites mentioning the holy prepuce. It would seem that the Vatican has moved away from veneration of Holy Relics. Also this particular relic may lead people to thoughts about Jesus which are not exactly spiritual. Hence it is not really surprising that something which was venerated a few hundred years ago, is now mostly forgotten. Also please sign your name after a comment, otherwise no one knows who is writing. Thanks. --Dumbo1 23:57, 9 January 2006 (UTC)
Don't tell me to search deeper on the net -- I already did a considerable amount of searching, but that's not the point. This is a reference project! It should be one-stop shopping for sources -- not "oh, there's more out there, just look around". If you've found some reliable sources on the topic, stick 'em in the body of the article. And the higher you can get up the citation tree the better. And if you can find a contemporary article on the 1983 theft, best of all. --Randomcritic.

this all used to be at a couple years ago, even some of the same wording (specifically that bit about how "The Pope declined the opportunity" to investigate a foreskin brought for his inspection). i emailed it to myself when i found it, because it's hilarious. but now they seem to have taken it all off the site. --dan 22:48, 13 July 2006 (UTC)

You'll find that Marc-Antoine Muret's oration of January 1, 1584, is dedicated to the topic of the circumcision, and on the appropriate feast day as well: [1] (talk) 19:46, 21 September 2008 (UTC)

no deterioration??[edit]

A foreskin is just skin, right? Wouldn't it have rotted and deteriorated after all this time? Something should be mentioned in the article about that. -Branddobbe 20:05, Feb 19, 2004 (UTC)

It is skin and flesh. Still, there are a number of options open for someone who wanted to preserve it: drying it out (mummification) is the most obvious. I'm a bit more curious as to whether it is or ever was common in Jewish homes to keep shorn foreskins as a keepsake. If it is not the custom, it strikes me as somewhat unusual that Jesus' foreskin would have been kept for the relic trade. -- Smerdis of Tlön 21:42, 19 Feb 2004 (UTC)
Jewish tradition dictates that the skin is buried almost immediately. As is typical of Judaism the body must be ritually returned to the ground upon death or dismemberment (hence they'll go to great lengths to recover the bodies of the dead). It'd be highly unusual, not to mention anathema to preserve and keep a part of the body and not bury it upon or before the owner's death; Jesus might've been the founder of Christianity but he was still born a Jew which meant he would've been expected to be beholden to their traditions til he made his own choices in adulthood. -- (talk) 13:57, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

This is nothing if you compare with one cathedral in the 11th century who claimed to have the head of John the Baptist when he was *twelve*. And my neighbour Koln has the bodies of the three wise man who brought the presents to Jesus. Mummified, i presume. Anyway, i dont know who wrote this, but its a very nice article. I'll propose it for featured. Muriel G 07:40, 4 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Ah, but there is above complete neglect of the significance of non-corruption. If the tissue in question (eg, body, relic, ...) doesn't deteriorate, that was taken as evidence of divine intervention ("must have been a saint" or something), and of course, Jesus being the most divine possible (neglecting Trinitarian pinhead dancing issues), His tissue could still less possibly have deteriorated. And all the mention of floral smells associated with relics, and living and dead saints is, as nearly as I can make out, an extension of the same sort of reasoning. Rotting stuff smells, right; nice smelling stuff, especially, can't possibly be rotting. More evidence of divine something or other.

and so must be special, ie divine or divinely preserved or something.

Interesting as there are only three wise men in folklore. Biblical souces state three gifts but not the number of "Magi". Dainamo 12:17, 14 Sep 2004 (UTC)
As for JtB's 14 year old head having been preserved, there are two possibilities I can see. The first is that scripture got his dates wrong and he was much younger than everyone has thought when Salome got it lopped off and when he baptised his cousin down at the river. Or there were for a while two heads on one JtB (oddly not mentioned in scripture), one of which was removed at age 14. Salome would then have gotten the other later on. There is much which requires faith to understand about this stuff. ww 15:25, 9 Aug 2004 (UTC)


"(removed at his circumcision, as with all other Jewish boys) would be one of the few physical remainders of Jesus left behind on Earth. It is important to note that Jewish circumcision around Jesus's time was not at all common"

The above snippet contradicts itself. — Chameleon Main/Talk/Images 20:13, 5 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Hopefully sorted now. --ALargeElk | Talk 12:15, 6 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Horrible horrible pun, Chameleon! Jewbacca 18:15, Sep 14, 2004 (UTC)

References and links[edit]

Does the linked Catholic Encyclopedia article on relics actually mention the Holy Prepuce or any of the location which claimed the have this relic? I couldn't find any reference to the Prepuce in the Catholic Encyclopedia at all, which is surprising and notable given that it is often quite expansive on many minor topics.

Nearly all the online references I could find appear to be either unsubstantiated, or secularist sites which were mildly antagonistic towards the Catholic church.

The Institute of Protestant Studies link and Mediaeval Sexual Behaviour article at least gave some documented references to lend credence, but it would be good if these could be checked.

Note there is also mention of umbilici, or the Holy Umbilical Cord, being a relic, and this time there is at least one rather opaque quote regarding the umbilical cord in the Catholic Encyclopedia-- Solipsist 11:39, 6 Aug 2004 (UTC)

You're right - I did the same search and couldn't find anything in the CE. I included that article as being pretty closely related and also because I was concerned about the primary link being to the Institute of Protestant Studies - it has references, as you say, but it's pretty vehemently anti-Catholic. Still looking for better sources. Incidentally, Voltaire referred to the Holy Foreskin - I'll add info on this soon. --ALargeElk | Talk 12:00, 6 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Yes I also saw one reference to someone quoting Voltaire but it looked fairly dubious. If you can find a direct quote, that would be good.
Also interesting is this link cached on Google. The current version of the page has most of the content removed and suggests it may be coming out in a book, but the relvant passage from the cached version is;
Gregory IX who became pope in 1227, was persecuting his adversaries with relentless ferocity. ..... For some reason the heads of Peter and Paul were kept away from the rest of their remains and were relocated in the Lateran basilica along with the Ark of the covenant, tablets of Moses, rod of Aaron, an urn of manna, the virgin's tunic, John the Baptist's shirt, the original five loaves and the two fishes from the feeding of the five thousand, and the dining table used at the last supper. In the nearby chapel of St. Lawrence the foreskin and the umbilical cord of Jesus was preserved in a bejeweled hollow crucifix filled with sacred oil.
Which ties up with some of the other references and gives a little more detail. -- Solipsist 12:22, 6 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Wonder what happened to all that stuff? Did Napoleon take it all? Did Charles V take it with him when he retired? ww 15:25, 9 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Does anyone fancy emailing Marc Shell [2], author of a chapter on "The Holy Foreskin; or, Money, Relics, and Judeo-Christianity" which was published in "Jews and Other Differences: The New Jewish Cultural Studies"? I'd do it myself, but it wouldn't look good coming from my work email address. Maybe tell him what we're about and ask him if he's got anything to add to the article. Or, does anyone have access to a good academic library which might have a copy of the book? (See [3]) --ALargeElk | Talk 14:09, 6 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Obviously not. OK, I'll do this from home a little later. --ALargeElk | Talk 16:16, 9 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Email sent to Marc Shell at Harvard. If he's got any sense he'll be on vacation right now, but you never know. --ALargeElk | Talk 19:26, 9 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Reference 5 links to the article "Fore Shame [4]" on Slate. I can find no independent confirmation that mentioning this relic is an excommunicable offense. I suspect that David Farley (author of the Slate article) fell for a story or urban legend. --UnSpace 18:11, 23 December 2006 (UTC)

There are a couple people in Calcata who have claimed to have a copy of the papal decree theatening excommunication and the priest in Calcata, Don Dario Magnoni, still evokes the decree when the Holy Foreskin is brought up. It's far from an urban legend. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Shackleton7 (talkcontribs) 20:48, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

Well, there are many who will suspect that the entire concept of the holy prepuce is a "story or urban legend". Nonetheless, I find "Even the holy prepuce was formerly venerated in an obscure church in Latium, until a decree of 190 [sic] forbade further mention of this detail" SAINT PETER'S by James Lees-Milne, ©1967 and "Since 1900 a person who speaks, writes, reads of the Holy Prepuce is a "tolerated infamous person", however the Holy See reserves the right of excommunication if you get to loud or smutty about it" [5]. Gzuckier 19:17, 26 December 2006 (UTC)
The first link is dead, the second cites no sources. (Is a google group inherently reliable?) Alleging excommunication for mentioning a spurious relic sounds like nonsense. See [6]] (Yes, I know this is over ten years old, but the foolish comment remains in the article.) Mannanan51 (talk) 05:31, 9 February 2017 (UTC)

size and shape of what got sliced[edit]

Based on circumcision, Circumcision in the Bible and Brit milah, my understanding is that the style of circumcision (tip v. whole foreskin) changed well before Jesus's time (i.e., during the Maccabean revolt). What changed with Simon bar Kokhba was the universality - not all Jews underwent it. So, re-editing that section. --ALargeElk | Talk 15:58, 6 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Elk, My understanding was the reverse, though not based on any WP content. During the bar Kokhba (have seen lots of different transliterations of that!) revolt, radical circumcision became the favored style amonst the Jews as it made impossible any 'going along' with the Greek anti mutilation perspective which had led to attempts to ban circumcision by the Seleucids. Kokhba (and followers) was revolted by such attempts to violate Jewish ritual requirements. As for the universal business, it seems that many a Jew (or family) attempted to 'slide by' and satisfy both sides in the controversy. Thus, before Kokhba, some Jews were either not circumcised or circumcised in such a way as to not appear to be so and so to avoid trouble with the post Alexander authorities. That would seem to include the Maccabean period as well.
The comment about "peri'ah" at Circumcision in the Bible would appear to support this understanding of a changed meaning for the word circumcision after say 130CE as opposed to pre 130CE at least among Rabbinical Jews -- from which modern Judaism derives.
In any case, it is my understanding that the circumcision done prior to both uprisings (eg, ca 300BCE) was not the radical style now practiced.
My original intent with this was merely to note that what we now (and most of the Middle Ages when all those foreskins were so carefully stored all over Europe) think of as what the kid leaves behind wasn't what was likely left behind at Jesus's circumcision. Thus stressing what is likely an anachronistic impression by all of those in charge of all those foreskins. I hadn't intended to wander afield into questions of ritual being defended by one or another Jewish uprising. Can you revise to get this across or should I? We've ended up with lots of obiter dicta as nearly as I can see. ww 15:10, 9 Aug 2004 (UTC)
You have a go. I'm more than prepared to bow to your superior knowledge. I agree, I've left it a bit of a mess. --ALargeElk | Talk 16:13, 9 Aug 2004 (UTC)


The article makes several references to churches which claim to "own" the HP. It sounds very odd to me to talk about owning part of Jesus; I know that UK law until recently held that you couldn't own parts of a human body. I'd be happier with "possess", unless someone knows better about church/continental law on the point. Markalexander100 07:50, 10 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Sounds good - 'possess' is the term used in the Relic article. -- Solipsist 08:18, 10 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Done. Markalexander100 05:53, 11 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Best featured article ever!--Eloquence*

Earliest Record?[edit]

One point of criticism concerning this article: I'd like to see when the first mention of this relic is recorded. All humor aside, the matter of celibacy was important to the early Christian Church (Clementine literature is one example of this). Some acknowledgement of this aspect would help improve this article's NPOV quality. -- llywrch 02:20, 14 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Funny there are no sources[edit]

And I obviously doubt very much the "pope ... declared it to be a true relic". Please do not joke with religious beliefs. Pfortuny 11:19, 14 Sep 2004 (UTC)


One of the links points to a pretty opinionated external link on Circumcision calling it an "ugly" "genital mutilation" and three is no indication it is not written in NPOV.

I am replacing it with the Wikipedia link Circumcision as it does a better job of addressing the topic. 21:27, 14 Sep 2004 (UTC)


A search online shows that the only source for the claim that Pope Clement VII stated that the relic was an authentic one comes from this article. Accordingly, I have deleted those claims until and unless someone provides a source stating that he did indeed declare the relic to be authentic. --Kadett 21:52, 14 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Not everything is online, especially about obscure subjects like this. At least two offline sources are listed - I assume that the authors of this article have consulted those. -- 19:51, 16 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I wouldn't particularly trust online resources on this subject. The catholic church has been back pedalling and supressing stories on relic worship since the early 20th century.
In any case, here is an independent online reference although you are welcome to question its impartiality. -- Solipsist 20:25, 16 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I wouldn't particularly trust that article since it completely misunderstands the nature of indulgences, does not cite their sources, and is simply engaged in an attempt to mock Christianity. --Kadett 22:15, 16 Sep 2004 (UTC)
If it were an authentic granting of authenticity and indulgence, I would expect to find it on some source online other than quotations of this article. Unless they can give a cite within one of the offline sources, I'm going to keep it deleted. --Kadett 22:15, 16 Sep 2004 (UTC)


When Jesus body ascended to heaven, didn't the foreskin followed it? Manco 22:09, 14 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I believe there was one theory that the holy foreskin did indeed ascend, and became the rings of Saturn.PurpleChez (talk) 00:24, 18 December 2012 (UTC)


"A related theological issue questions whether Jesus' foreskin was restored to him in his resurrected body. The act of circumcision was a ritual of profound religious significance to Jews, and marked their membership in the covenant community. The New Testament contains extensive discussions about whether circumcision was needed for Gentile converts, and concludes that it was not; the position settled upon is that Jesus' crucifixion established a new covenant for Christians for which the rite was not necessary." Considering that most Christians believe that Jesus is God come to earth and has fulfilled the law, would we be right to mention Colossians 2:9-15? - Ta bu shi da yu 07:39, 26 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Wedding Ring?[edit]

My girlfriend, who has taken master's-level courses on religious history in Europe, says that although Catherine of Siena was indeed allegorically married to Jesus, the foreskin-as-wedding-ring concept is from an anti-Catholic parody written centuries later. DS 17:10, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

  • Dear DS, instead of removing the item you disagree maybe you and/or your girlfriend may add a sentence or two about the parody written centuries later. I think it would improve the article. muriel@pt 20:32, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
    • Much better :) Thanks, muriel@pt 09:38, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)


Well I think this article won't even make good article nowadays so unless anyone objects, I'll soon list it. Incredibly short, few sources. Skinnyweed 17:46, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

Removed Text[edit]

Since Vatican II, the emphasis placed on relics by the Catholic Church has declined markedly, with many relics with long traditions being relegated to "pious legend" by the Vatican. Interest in the Holy Foreskin has been specifically downplayed, with the observation that this particular relic encouraged 'irreverent curiosity'.

No refrence attached, and this statement smelled false to me. I've been to many churches, in Europe and the USA, and there was an abundance of relics, with people venerating them and the like. At any rate, it needs a source. Lostcaesar 20:16, 9 July 2006 (UTC)

Vatican II and related reforms officially struck off a large number of ancient relics and saints from the record, rendering them "dubious". The calendar, for example, was drastically pared down in the number of saint's days; affected churches were understandably irritated, and many continue to venerate the relics they house, and the saints they are dedicated to, but this does not mean that the "saints" are still regarded as saints by the official church heirarchy. Clinkophonist 23:17, 15 July 2006 (UTC)

The rings of Saturn - hoax?[edit]

I've removed this paragraph, as well as the corresponding one from the Leo Allatius article:

"During the late 17th century, Catholic scholar and theologian Leo Allatius in De Praeputio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Diatriba ("Discussion concerning the Prepuce of our Lord Jesus Christ") speculated that the Holy Foreskin may have ascended into Heaven at the same time as Jesus himself and might have become the rings of Saturn, then only recently observed by telescope."

Neither of the external links for Allatius mention such a theory, and I have a feeling it could be a hoax. It's mentioned on various blogs, but they're probably sourced from Wikipedia.--Nydas(Talk) 09:12, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

I'm not so sure it's a hoax, I had a discussion with my professors about Allatius' idea nearly a decade ago, before Wikipedia started. InfernoXV 09:56, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
Hoax was probably too strong a word on my part. It could still use a reference, though.--Nydas(Talk) 10:25, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
Did Allatius write an essay about the Holy Prepuce? Yes: it is definitely listed in Fabricius's bibliography as an unpublished work. Did the essay argue that the rings of Saturn are Jesus Christ's foreskin? Unfortunately we can't check that because it was never published and the manuscript is currently unaccounted for. The Saturn story seems to date back no earlier than a work published in 1887 by two British atheists who didn't state their sources. I've updated the article accordingly with references. Muzilon (talk) 09:47, 23 November 2013 (UTC)

"Jesus' circumcision is not mentioned in the canonic gospels..."[edit]

The article currently reads "Jesus' circumcision is not mentioned in the canonic gospels, though it can be inferred from his Jewish ethnicity." But what about Luke 2:21 (King James Version): "And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb."[7]? Ewlyahoocom (talk) 07:15, 1 January 2008 (UTC)


I have added {{Fact}} tags to two statements in the article, those about Vatican decrees on Excommunication. The sole source for these allegations appears to be the Slate magazine article, which itself gives no sources. This violates Wikipedia's rule on Verifiability, and I recommend they be either sourced or deleted.Kmerian (talk) 13:57, 5 February 2008 (UTC)

As stated above: There are a couple people in Calcata who have claimed to have a copy of the papal decree theatening excommunication and the priest in Calcata, Don Dario Magnoni, still evokes the decree when the Holy Foreskin is brought up. It's far from an urban legend. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Shackleton7 (talkcontribs) 20:51, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

You have to wonder...[edit]

During the middle ages, where did the alleged owners of the holy prepuce get all those foreskins? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:20, 12 July 2008 (UTC)

Presumably from penises? DS (talk) 00:48, 9 June 2009 (UTC)

Stoke on Trent[edit]

I'm querying the existence of a Holy Foreskin in Stoke on Trent. Now that's a sentence I never thought I'd be writing... but be that as it may: I've chased the links, and nowhere is SoT mentioned. Everywhere else in the list seems to check out OK in the Slate article and elsewhere; however, Googling reveals only the WP article and fairly obvious derivatives thereof.

I'm not denying that there may well be relics in SoT, but something about this reference is pinging my sneaky-vandalism detector. I may be wrong - in fact, I'd be delighted to be proven wrong - but I'd like a reputable citation before I'll believe it. Kay Dekker (talk) 22:27, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

Ditto for Newport, too. I missed it the first time around, vaguely thinking that it was one of those French places with English names left over from when England owned chunks of northern France, and didn't click the link to check - sorry for that. Kay Dekker (talk) 22:42, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

Article scope[edit]

I've created Circumcision of Jesus which is designed to cover the historical, art historical, and theological aspects of the circumcision of Jesus. I think I'm going to move some of the content of this article there, and leave this article to describe the actual relics. Raul654 (talk) 21:02, 29 November 2010 (UTC)

Problematic references[edit]

Most of the article appears to be taken from articles by David Farley, a journalist who published a book on the subject. Most sources found elsewhere were anti-catholic websites, needless to say non of those qualify as RS. I suspect much of this article's content linked to Catholic oppression of this tradition to be modern urban legends.--Rafy talk 13:30, 15 October 2012 (UTC)

Jesus was not historical so his foreskin could not have existed.[edit]

Jesus is a mythical creation. Jesus was not historical so his foreskin could not have existed. Furthermore,the Mohel traditionally saves the foreskins and is buried with them upon his death.