Treasures of Heaven, Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe, British Museum

Around 828, some Venetian merchants were in Alexandria on a mission. They made their way into the Coptic cathedral where the body of St Mark the Evangelist was preserved. Having somehow squared the custodians, the Italians slit open his shroud and carried the remains to a waiting ship. They covered them with pork to discourage Muslim customs officials from looking too closely, and sailed back to the Lagoon. “History records no more shameless example of body snatching, nor any,” as John Julius Norwich put it, “of greater long-term significance.”

Around 828, some Venetian merchants were in Alexandria on a mission. They made their way into the Coptic cathedral where the body of St Mark the Evangelist was preserved. Having somehow squared the custodians, the Italians slit open his shroud and carried the remains to a waiting ship. They covered them with pork to discourage Muslim customs officials from looking too closely, and sailed back to the Lagoon. “History records no more shameless example of body snatching, nor any,” as John Julius Norwich put it, “of greater long-term significance.”

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