Monday, March 16, 2015

Goddesses in the Dust: The Virgin Mary's Belt


In a monastery far far away, lies a relic supposedly once belonging to the Virgin Mary, a relic that has healing properties. The story tells us that the day Mary died, the Apostle Thomas went to her tomb only to find it empty. Looking up he saw Mary ascending to heaven; as she floated upwards, she removed her belt and gave it to Thomas. 

Now a couple of different churches profess that they have the authentic belt in their possession, one in Italy and one in Greece. The Greek belt is in Mount Athos, a monastery where women are not allowed - even female animals and insects are prohibited from the premises! 

But the belt from the Virgin, no problem. 

Every so often the belt is taken to different cities where the faithful can see it up close and personal. Some believe the belt, as they do with many holy relics, can cure diseases such as cancer and infertility so hundreds of thousands turn out, as they do here in Moscow, to wait outside the Church

and then line up

to take their turn kissing the holy relic. 

Supposedly the belt was made by Mary herself out of camelhair. It was kept in Jerusalem for many years, then transferred to Constantinople in the 5th century where it was embroidered in gold by Empress Zoe, who was grateful for a miraculous cure she attributed to the garment. It was finally donated to the Vatopedi Monastery at Mount Athos, Greece, in the 14th century where it is stored in this ornate silver reliquary.  

21 comments:

  1. I wonder how they select female and małe insects?

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    1. I just heard that somewhere - can't imagine how they do that...easier with the animals. Go figure!

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  2. Interesting to me as I was not raised in an especially religious household. Also interesting that women are banned from that monastery, but the belt is no problem!

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    1. Agreed - no women allowed but the Virgin Mary's belt is highly prized. It seems pretty misogynistic to me, but I've heard one explanation for why no women are allowed is so that the monks won't be distracted from their spiritual work. And we women are pretty distracting, eh? ;))

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  3. I saw "the belt buckle of Jesus" at the museum in Copenhagen... although I think it was a spoof (they also had a pretty convincing skeleton of a mermaid!) On a more serious note: here in Vienna we have "the Spear of Destiny" in the Habsburg Treasury. That, you will recall, is the spear that the Roman soldier, Loginus, used to stab Jesus in the side. It is said that who ever owns the spear will have victory in battle. Emperor Constantine owned it for a while. Hitler also had his henchmen steal it. Sounds like something straight out of Indiana Jones. Now it just sits in a glass display case with no special destinction. I did not know that Mary's belt is at Mount Athos. I have always wanted to visit Mount Athos (It is not likely that I'd be allowed in, since I'm not Orthodox). Mount Athos is semi-autonomous from Greece and is sometimes described as Europe's last surviving medieval country. The fact that it is on a remote, heavily forested penninsula only adds to the mysterious aura. Can you tell that I love this stuff? Thanks for the post!

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    1. The Shroud of Turin, yes, but the belt buckle of Jesus? Now that's one I haven't heard of! There is some kind of pattern here with belts and buckles, right? I've also never heard of that spear, very interesting story. You do seem very passionate and knowledgable about Mount Athos. I've read one of the monks has made a fortune for the monastery on real estate deals and is at odds with the Greek government over it. Epic church vs.state!!

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  4. Interesting that women are not allowed in that monastery! I do hope things change in my lifetime.

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    1. Maybe women wouldn't want to go to this monastery - instead they can start their own!

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  5. That's one I've never seen for sale on ebay. Very interesting post.

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    1. Haha! One never knows, I imagine somebody is always willing to run a scam on Ebay...

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  6. Amazing! I always learn something reading your posts. And I love the images which you have chosen to illustrate this piece. x

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    1. Thanks LeeAnn! The fotos aren't mine, but I especially like the overhead shot of the priests waiting in line...

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  7. another notch of information in this old country boys staff of knowledge. thanks again...

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  8. Interesting information, as usual. I just love these stories. The fact that they have survived for centuries just adds to their allure.

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    1. Makes you wonder how much the stories change over the centuries, too, right?

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  9. Ha! I love that female insects are banned but Mary's belt is welcome. You share the best stories.

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  10. How very interesting. And such gorgeous photographs to go along with the story. I always like to drop by and see what you've posted... something that takes me places I'll never go to or see in my own life.

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  11. the greeks in question need to learn to share.

    fascinating tale and fascinating images. thank you as always, amanda. you are a natural teacher.

    love
    kj

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  12. certainly its power must be related to abstinence. while there are obvious feminist issues i'd have with this:) i do think there is great power to be had in sitting inside desire without answering its call headlong, but equally for men as for women (and as you know me well, i mean in terms of all aspects of desire, not just obviously the body's.)

    xo
    erin

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    1. I can see the abstinence part as a way to get closer to one's divine core, but only if it's done in a non misogynistic way. Maintaining abstinence for men has too often over the centuries been achieved by degrading women.

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