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The third finding of John the Baptist's head

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#1 Matthew


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Posted 25 May 2012 - 02:06 PM

I receive the daily readings from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and saw that today was the commemoration of the third finding of the head of the Forerunner and Baptist John.

This seems like an extraordinary thing to lose, and a difficult thing to verify when found.

Can someone explain further where the holy relic was lost before, or where it is believed to be now?

Thank you in advance,


#2 Karl El-Koura

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 03:49 PM

Hi Matthew,

You may want to start here: http://orthodoxwiki...._the_Forerunner, and then here for an account of the first findings: http://en.wikipedia....#Related_feasts. Basically, the finders claimed to have seen visions revealing to them where the head was buried.


#3 Deborah Valentine

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 05:12 PM

They say that two heads are better than one, maybe the third will complete the set. Maybe we should just leave all these heads alone.

#4 Niko T.

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 06:48 PM

Regarding the Precious Head of thePrecious Forerunner
"According to the history by Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem, the Precious Skull of St. John was preserved incorrupt [at least initially.]

The first time the Skull was found in the Palace of Herod by two monks “through a vision and revelationof the Baptist himself” and transferred to Emesa of Syria, where itfell into the hands eventually of an Arian Hieromonk Eustathios.

The second time the Skull was foundhidden in a cave, “within a jar”, and transferred toConstantinople, where it was placed in the Church dedicated to theForerunner in Evdomo.

Regarding the third Finding of the Skull, we don't have many details. It is only known that it was foundin Comana of Cappadocia, “by a Priest, within a silver reliquary, and in a holy place”, and from there was transferred again to Constantinople.

From the Encomium written by St.Theodore the Studite, we surmise that most likely a portion or thewhole holy Skull was preserved in the Monastery of the Studium. Later in historical accounts, we see that the Skull was treasured in Vlachia (though it is unknown who and when gave it to them) for inthe 16th century, a portion was given to the Monastery of Dionysiou on Mount Athos, by the Abbot of Vlachias Neago Basarbe(1512-1521), as is clearly discerned on its golden reliquary. In1765, though Monks of Dionysiou transferred it to their dependancy onthe island of St. Eustratios for the salvation of their fields fromdevastation by locusts, their boat was captured by pirates, and theirportion of the Skull of the Forerunner was taken to the Great Mosqueof Damascus, where it is preserved in a special place.

Another portion of the Skull was preserved in the Monastery of Kalouti of Vlachias (a dependancy ofthe All-holy Tomb of Christ). This portion, “on account of dangers”, was transferred to Jerusalem by Patriarch Dositheos, while it is unknown where it is found today...

...we should also mention that, after the Crusades, in the West appears a skull which is attributed to the Precious Forerunner. For its preservation was constructed the Cathedral of Amiens, the largest Gothic-style Church of Europe."

Some portions of the Precious Skull todayare preserved by Docheiariou Monastery, while a portion of the jaw “with three teeth” in Stavronikita Monastery, Mount Athos. The above portion is purported to be in the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul.
(sources 1 and 2)

The head of the Precious Forerunner in Amiens, France
"From the 13th century, theCathedral of Notre Dame in Amiens has enshrined a portion of theskull – the facial bones – of St. John the Baptist. This shouldn’t confuse those who know that Mt. Athos also claims to have the “head of St. John.” This naming is a pious habit, becauseeven if you have just a part of the head or the hand, you wouldn’tsay, “we have five centimeters of the skull,” you would say, “we have his head.” On Mt. Athos, they have a different part of theskull, but in Amiens we have all the bones of the face, and you caneven imagine his personality behind these relics..."

"RTE: Can you tell us now about the evidence for some of the relics you’ve studied?

FR. NICHOLAS: All of the major relics that I mentioned earlier have reasonable historical and scientific argumentsfrom many different sources, and this varied coherence is a strong argument in itself. Also, in learning the history of these relics, weOrthodox are discovering another view of the history of the westernChurch and a new way of looking at these historical events.

For example, the head of St. John the Baptist was obtained during the sack of Constantinople in 1204. Thiswas a great tragedy for the eastern Church, but now we see what hashappened in Asia Minor, in Turkey, from the fall of Constantinople tothe Turks in 1453 to the present. If the head had remained there, would it have been lost or destroyed when Constantinople fell to theTurks (as many relics were), or would it still be accessible for veneration? Now, this relic is in France, in a very beautiful cathedral, and it is possible for the Orthodox to venerate it in the most open manner. May 25, according to the Julian calendar, or June7th according to the civil calendar, is the feast-day of the Third Finding of the Head of St. John the Baptist, and on this feast in 2004 we celebrated the liturgy with this relic on the altar. This could never happen in modern Turkey, and this kind of reflection changes our estimation of the historical event of the transfer ofthis relic to Amiens. God has His own providence.

God allowed the transfer of these relics here, and this western society is preserving them faithfully. Certainly, France is undergoing a period of de-Christianization, butwe still see daily veneration of these relics by a small number offaithful Christians. Another very well-known example from the 11thcentury is the transfer (“translation”) of the relics of St.Nicholas from Myra of Lycia (also now Turkey) to Bari in Italy. In the service dedicated to this event we say, “It was not useful in God’s sight that these valuable relics rested without activity in the desert of Lycia.” We Orthodox need to be reverent before God’s providence in this.

This continuing veneration by even aminority of French faithful is one of the spiritual arguments fortheir authenticity. In each case I’ve studied, I’ve found local people who believe, and scholars who have documents, historical books, and records that demonstrate the historical and scientific arguments proving the relic’s authenticity. Admittedly, these people are small in number. The great number of French Catholics notonly do not know anything about their own holy places, but they aren’t very interested in them. This is not their error; they themselves are victims of the anti-Christian, anti-ecclesiastical, and anti-relic mass media. Unfortunately, every weak point of western Church history is magnified to generalize the impression of the weakness of the whole Church. The Catholics had their misadventures, and the credulity of simple people was at times turned to profit by bad clergymen, but still, when you study the history of the great relics, there is no room for these simplistic objections.

On the contrary, we have very positive and powerful arguments. We can cite the example of the head of St. John the Baptist in Amiens, which, anatomically, is a facial bone without the jaw. At the same time, a church in the diocese of Verdun reputedly had the jaw of St. John. A commission was organized tostudy the two relics, and in this case, the jaw in Verdun turned outto be that of another person, post 10th-century, but the conclusions of the same commission about the relics of St. John at Amiens were astonishing. The Amiens bone dates not only from the first to the third century after Christ, but this skull fragment was determined tobe that of a man of Mediterranean origin, from age 30 to 45 and further, there was an ancient hole inflicted by a sharp instrument, just at the bottom of the forehead. According to Orthodox tradition, we know that after his beheading, Herodias stabbed the head with her knife as her revenge for his denunciation of her illegitimate marriage to Herod. Although this is not so important to the scientific examiners, we do have this argument from our own tradition, along with other historical and anthropological argumentsfor the relic’s authenticity.

In the history of the great relics, we almost always have this scientific and spiritual correlation. For example, in the history of the Shroud of Turin, the historical documentation is not very convincing, but the most striking arguments come from the scientific side, whose findings have been continually revised over the past few years.

After the French Revolution, we had what was called a “Catholic Renaissance” in France. The crude rationalism and criticism of the revolutionaries and Protestantstrying to discredit relics prompted the Catholics to search out the histories of these objects. They studied, they launched archeological investigations, and they arrived at a higher level of objective argument in favor of the authenticity of many of these relics than had been known before. Not only in France, but also in the Christian East, we still have many documents that have not been investigated because of language barriers, antiquity, and inaccessibility.

As we continue to study, we are finding even more arguments favoring authenticity, but my view is thatrational investigation can never be sufficient proof. It is limited by the nature of rationalism. The main argument for us is the argument of our faith. It is not the fact that this relic, this bone, is really from St. John the Baptist that is ultimately important, but whether this relic can in some way affect our modern life, our personal destiny. We know from the history of the Church that if this relic is from St. John the Baptist, then we have a greater guarantee that our weak prayer will have more result here than in another place.

The place that we want to arrive at is to show that it is not only possible, but useful, to pray in front of relics. We have enough evidence to show that they support our prayer. God and the saints themselves give us enough arguments. However, even if I invite pilgrims to these holy places, personally, I do not dare to impose this veneration as a certainty. It is only the whole Church that can authorize this. Often, people ask, “Can you prove…,” and I have to honestly say, “No,” but the level of my rational knowledge shows me that my faith can support my belief, that I can pray in front of these relics with confidence that my faith is not forced by primitive and insubstantial arguments."
(taken from:http://www.roadtoemmaus.net/back_issue_articles/RTE_25/A_CITY_OF_SAINTS.pdf,"A CITY OF SAINTS: THE FORGOTTEN RELIQUARIES OF PARIS";
Road to Emmaus Vol. VII, No. 2 (#25), source)

#5 Matthew


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Posted 29 May 2012 - 01:34 PM

Thank you very much, Niko!

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