Did the Russian warship Sunken Moskva try to use religious weapons?

More than a week ago, it was reported that the ship Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, had sunk. Moscow is a missile cruiser and according to Russian state media, the ship sank after an explosion on board. This news created a buzz in the religious community as it was rumored that there was a fragment of the “True Cross” (the cross on which Jesus was crucified) on board at the time. If true, this would make the warship carrying the relic the latest example in a long tradition where religious objects have been weaponized in conflicts.

In 2020, the Russian Orthodox Church announced that a reliquary containing a 19th-century metal cross was about to be delivered to Vice Admiral Igor Osipov, then commander of the Black Sea fleet. The cross is special because attached to it is a small piece of wood. It was donated by an anonymous collector. The relic is said to have been moved to the small chapel aboard the Moskva. There are a lot of questions here – is the wood the real Cross? Has it been delivered to the ship yet? The ship was sunk by the Ukrainian army? Are reports of Osipov’s arrest accurate? —But the incident speaks of the phenomenon of religious weapons.

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Religious relics such as the Moscow cross are objects that have a specific material relationship to saints and other religious figures. Often these are bone fragments or buns of religious figures (Latin relief simply means “remains” or “remnants”), but they are sometimes objects associated with the sacred deceased. Examples of these second-rate relics include clothing, jewelry, and substantial personal possessions. In Roman Catholicism, objects (usually small pieces of cloth) in contact with the remains of a saint are considered a lower form of relic (“third class”). This phenomenon is not exclusive to Christianity: relics are important in Islam, some forms of Buddhism, and other minor religions. It’s not even an exclusive religion. Anyone who has ever held a lock of hair for a loved one, a “passerby’s” shirt, or an autographed photograph of a celebrity knows the power of physical connection in the midst of grief, separation, and threshold. tomb.

In Christian denominations that use relics, these items are clearly hierarchical: a relic associated with Jesus, such as the Cross, is considered more powerful than the relic of another god. saints are less common. These hierarchies extend to body parts: the head of John the Baptist, who “resides” in at least four locations, is special because the New Testament has a whole story about it.

The origins of monumental practices are little known, but thought to be the earliest evidence for Christian relic logic comes as early as the third century. Dr James Corke-Webster, a Senior Lecturer at King’s College London, told The Daily Beast, “We get a glimpse of the origins of such thinking about monuments in one of the narratives. about the first Christian martyr, Perpetua’s passion. As that story climaxed, a Christian on the cusp of death turned to his jailer, telling him, ‘Don’t let this upset you; let them strengthen you, “and then take the ring off the man’s finger, dab it in his open wound, and give it back to him ‘as a symbol and memorial.'” the ring becomes an object of religious authority as well as a memento. “We can only wonder,” Corke-Webster added, “what did the warden do with the ring; I wonder if he realized he had the first intentional relic in the history of Christianity? ”

Because relics are associated with holy individuals and heroes, they very quickly accumulate a reputation as a source of deployable power. Pilgrims who visit shrines of saints are not just tourists. Just like those who have visited shrines dedicated to Asclepius or the occult Prophet, they are searching for healing and answers. The logic of increased strength meant that relics were quickly protected. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Antioch, said that the relics of the saints are more powerful than “walls, trenches, weapons and hosts of soldiers”. As Patrick Geary put it in his book Living with the dead in the Middle Ages“The bodies of the saints are the collateral left by the saints” they “bring the special protection of the saint to the community, shielding it from both spiritual and material enemies and ensuring secure its prosperity.”

In the sixth century, the idea that the relic of a saint could protect a city and ensure military victory (against enemies abroad and heretics within) became a tool. dissemination. Conceptually, the reclamation of monuments is a means of strengthening the defenses of a city or capital. In fact, it is a means of moving power around. When King Alfonso II of Asturias (northern Spain), a contemporary of Charlemagne, established his capital at Oviedo, he invoked the legend of Saint Turibius of Astorga. According to legend, the fifth-century saint transported a huge chest of high-status relics related to Jesus and other saints to Africa for safekeeping. The chest was then moved to Toledo and then to Oviedo in 711. Alfonso was able to use the myth of transporting relics to transfer political and cultural power to his new capital. The most famous monument is the Sudarium of Oviedo, the cloth that is said to have been wrapped around Jesus’ head when he was buried. Even today, pilgrims make their way to Oviedo to visit the Spanish Shroud of Turin.

This widespread tendency to use relics to consolidate political power can also be deployed in battle. Relics are movable and so thinking about the spiritual protection they give their owners can also be utilized in military skirmishes. A fragment of the Cross believed to be secured by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius became part of the spiritual arsenal of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. It was brought into battle by crusader soldiers. And, according to historians Alan Murray and Norman Housely, was present at four battles in Egypt in the 11th and 12th centuries. Later, when it was captured by Saladin, Richard the Lionheart tried to claim it. Queen Tamar of Georgia allegedly offered 200,000 pieces of gold as a ransom for it, but Saladin wasn’t stupid: the True Cross’s driving force was worth more than that.

While the official use of relics in battle is a hallmark of the medieval period, we see echoes of it even more recently. During World War I, soldiers sometimes brought their Bibles into combat as a form of protection. A report on events that took place after the battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916, records that several members of the British army lost their lives undetected for three weeks. Witness Gerald Brenan wrote “The wounded who could not be brought, got into the bullet holes … took out their Bibles, and died like that.” This is, of course, a more personal and defensive use of the Bible, but it is part of a larger worldview of relic power.

Earlier this month, Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, said that his followers are restraining anti-Christs. The comments were vague, but he referred to “forces emerging against the lands of Russia”, and Kirill is seen by many as an ally of Putin. Certainly, if a fragment of the True Cross were present on Moscow, it would not protect anyone from danger.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/when-the-best-defense-is-a-box-of-bones?source=articles&via=rss Did the Russian warship Sunken Moskva try to use religious weapons?


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: hung@interreviewed.com.

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