Saint Benno

And his holy ass-bone.

Saint Benno

Editors note: I was delighted to be the guest this week on Boys Bible Study, a really funny podcast that reviews contemporary Christian movies. Take a listen!

Benno, the Bishop of Meissen, died in the early 11th century. Many years later, at the dawn of the Reformation, he was canonized and his skeleton was exhumed to be put in a shrine.

This was 1524, the year after Benno’s fellow Saxon Martin Luther married a nun he’d help smuggle out of the convent in a herring barrel. Luther criticized the translation of Benno’s bones in a polemic entitled Against the New Idol and the Old Devil about To Be Set Up at Meissen. A bit extreme — but Protestant villagers in nearby Buchholz took the protest even further.

Donning sieves on their heads like religious caps and carrying manure forks as if the prongs were candles, the villagers dug up a horse’s corpse and paraded pieces as mock relics. Their satiric bishop gave a speech praising “der heilige arschbacken des liben sanct benno” — Saint Benno’s holy ass-bone — before throwing it in a well.