But Calcata’s most remarkable attraction â€” and the subject of a book that Farley is now writing â€” turned out to be something no longer there: the supposed foreskin of Jesus Christ.
For more than four centuries, the â€œHoly Prepuceâ€ had been the city’s treasure, kept behind bronze doors over the altar in the Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. It was displayed every year on Jan. 1, the Feast of the Holy Circumcision. At one time, pilgrims who came to venerate it were rewarded with an indulgence that cut 10 years from purgatory.
To believers in Jesus’ Resurrection, Farley notes, the foreskin is â€œone of the only conceivable parts of his body that he could have left on earth.â€
Legend holds that the Emperor Charlemagne received the object from an angel, then gave it to Pope Leo III in the year 800. It supposedly remained in the papal collection until the early 16th century, when a looting German soldier brought it to Calcata.